Robert Schumann

Sonata for violin & piano No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Both of Schumann's Sonatas for Violin and Piano (the present item and the Sonata, Op.121 in D minor) were composed during his tenure as a conductor in Düsseldorf in 1851, substantially later than his chamber works -- Piano Quintet, Piano Quartet, and the three string quartets -- which have achieved a more general renown. As such, they present a different set of challenges and rewards than do those earlier works. Signs of Schumann's impending collapse are certainly evident in the A minor Violin Sonata, but not through any deficiency of musical value; the work's dramatic and psychological complexities speak for themselves.

    The undulation of the Sonata's first movement is established by the unbroken sixteenth note figuration in the piano's right hand. The music is played out with great surges of emotion and activity; the ponderous tone of the opening bars is carried away to heights of more hopeful passion as the second theme appears. The development is concise, concerning itself almost exclusively with the opening motive. The move into the recapitulation, seamless as it is, is a master stroke, as is the manner in which Schumann adapts the harmonic motion of the opening to achieve a sense of finality.

    There could be little more contrast than that between the agitated closing bars of the first movement and the gentle tones of the second, marked Allegretto. This is a movement with virtually no dramatic motion. It is, instead, built of the same stuff that formed so many of the composer's earlier character-pieces. Witness the gentle, essentially dispassionate dialogue between contrasting musical ideas, the one built on a delicately descending, syncopated motion, the other more sprightly, with spiccato textures and trills, but no more forceful in nature than its companion. There is also a third idea, in F minor, more smoothly melodic and entirely pianissimo, which makes one appearance and then disappears forever. The frequent fermatas are by no means mere separation of phrases and sections, but are entirely necessary to the character of the movement. The agitation of the slightly quicker middle section is brief, only affording the players an opportunity to make a few more forceful statements before, inevitably, winding back down into the intimate tone of the opening. In this movement we can clearly see the myriad persona of Schumann characterized in his youthful writings by the names Florestan, Eusebius, and Master Raro in outline.

    It is difficult to say whether or not the third and final movement of the Sonata, marked Lebhaft (Lively), is of lesser substance than its companions, for, in the hands of a capable duo, its perpetual motion sparkles until the final crescendo, after which the three staunch chords seem somewhat obtrusive and unnatural. More often than not, however, the movement comes across as dry and unnecessarily repetitive. But surely the movement's apparent shortcomings result from its composer's quest to explore increasingly subtle gradations of musical psychology. The feeling of irresolution at the end of the Sonata can by no means be construed as unintentional, but rather must be seen as Schumann's effort to honestly explore the depths of his own increasingly agitated and complex mind, regardless of whether or not the resulting product corresponded with pre-existing musical values.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Mit leidenschaftlichem Ausdruck
    2. Allegretto
    3. Lebhaft

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 ABC / ABC Classics
    2018 ABC Classics 4816751
    2018 Hänssler Classic HC 18027
    2017 Lawo Classics LWC 1110
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796220
    2016 Avie AV 2347
    2016 Blue Griffin Recording BGR 391
    2016 Warner Classics 557553
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295937898
    2016 Decca
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646019311
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290873941
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1510
    2015 Musica Omnia MO 0610
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95020BR
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95076BR
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794647
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 764
    2014 ECM / ECM New Series
    2014 ECM New Series 4810957
    2014 Ars Produktion ARS 38526
    2014 Albany Music Distribution TROY 1493
    2013 Chandos CHAN 10762
    2013 Caro Mitis CM 42008
    2013 Genuin GEN 13538
    2013 Ongaku 024123
    2013 Ondine ODE 12052
    2013 Wigmore Hall Live WHLIVE 0059
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 001649002
    2012 Hyperion CDA 67923
    2012 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4097
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94328
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099960209
    2012 Audite AUDITE 21418
    2011 Phil.Harmonie PHIL06011
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099907083624
    2011 BIS BISSACD 1784
    2011 Linn Records 370
    2011 Telos / Telos Music TLS098
    2011 Naxos 8572375
    2011 Denon Records
    2010 Genuin 89146
    2010 Centaur Records CRC3086
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 902048
    2010 Ligia 302184
    2010 Camerata Records 28163
    2010 Ars Musici 232147
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 002894778816
    2010 Onyx ONYX 4053
    2010 MDG / MDG Gold 3041647
    2010 Music & Arts 1244
    2010 Capriccio Records 5040
    2010 Teldec 256468103
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93791
    2009 Challenge Classics 72341
    2009 Arte Nova Classics 807740
    2009 Music & Arts MACD1223
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Alpha Productions 121
    2008 ECM 2047
    2008 Gramola 98832
    2007 TDK DVWW-COMARG
    2007 Urania 331
    2007 Sony Classical Essential Classics 88697000252
    2007 Cedille Records 95
    2007 Scandinavian Classics 220585205
    2006 Edel Records 2842
    2006 Brilliant 92102
    2006 Avanti Records 10192
    2006 Amon Ra CDSAR 54
    2006 Universal
    2006 Token Creek / Token Creek Recordings 116
    2005 Bridge 9179
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 76871
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 474648
    2004 Orfeo 617041
    2004 Warner Classics 4614002
    2004 Capriccio Records 67123
    2001 Camerata Records 25CM598
    2001 Arte Nova Classics 74321807742
    2001 Hyperion 67180
    2000 Haenssler 98355
    2000 Thorofon 2341
    2000 Signum UK 107/00
    1999 Fono Enterprise 99359
    1999 Pearl 0025
    1999 Biddulph Recordings LAB165
    1999 Naxos 554401
    1998 Grammofono 2000 78820
    1998 Live Classics 182
    1997 Tacet 61
    1996 Azica Records 71204
    1996 APR (Appian) 5542
    1995 Bayer Records 200046
    1995 Arabesque 6662
    1995 Erato 96962
    1995 Globe Records 5140
    1995 RCA 68052
    1995 Music & Arts CD-877
    1994 Symposium 1076
    1994 Naxos 550870
    1994 Naxos 550599
    1993 Opus 111 30-77
    1993 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 356
    1992 Harmonia Mundi 901405
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48035
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 4192352
    SCR 7
    The Piano Library 189
    Avie 2080
    Tzar Records
    Ars Musici 1038
    The Piano Library 301
    Philips 434030
    Chandos 6659
    Koch Discover International 920400
    Philips 434037
    REM 311218
    REM 311080
    Accord 220532
    Sony Music Entertainment 48035
    Edelweiss Records 1011
    Brilliant 92102/7
    CPO CPO999 597-2
    Berlin Classics 0091892
    MCA 10478