Clara Wieck Schumann

Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, for piano in F sharp minor, Op. 20

    Description by Robert Cummings

    This variations piece was given to Robert Schumann by his wife Clara upon his 43rd birthday in 1853, the year before his crippling mental breakdown. For years, the common wisdom on the dual career of Clara Wieck Schumann was that she was a much better pianist than composer. In later years, however, her art has been assessed more positively. True, her ranking will likely never reach that of her husband, but then Schumann's domestic duties as the mother of eight children most certainly detracted from her creativity as a composer, if not as a pianist. The work's theme is somber and slow, stripped down to its barest wares in the stately and simple opening statement. The first variation immediately infuses it with life, coloring it with a greater sense of Romantic warmth. The ensuing variation enlivens it even more, but takes a detour toward Chopin. The somber mood from the opening returns in the next variant and in much the same unison-like manner, but with a measure of gloom. The fourth variation is brief and lively, while the epic fifth is somewhat Brahmsian in its grandiosity and big chords. The sixth variant reverts once more to the slow and somber mood from the opening and distinguishes itself very little from that section and the third variation. The delicate and elegant manner of the seventh variation reveals more color and depth than any other and is also the longest. The theme returns to conclude the work with bits from previous variations. Brahms also wrote a work based on the same theme in 1854, dedicating it to Clara.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Yarlung Records YAR 52635
    2014 Lura Johnson
    2013 United Classics T2CD 2012069
    2011 MCK Multimidia AMZ 000081
    2007 Haenssler 7065
    2007 Tudor Records 7007
    2006 Arte Nova 721060
    2003 Capstone Records 8714
    2002 CPO 999914
    2001 CPO 999758
    2001 CBC Records 1087
    2001 Tudor Records 7028
    1999 Naxos 8 553501
    1998 La Ma De Guido 37
    1997 Carlton Classics 3036600292
    1995 CPO 999132
    Partridge 1130
    Wa Nui 49706
    Meridian Records 84312