Robert Schumann’s relatively short and latterly troubled life ended in 1856, at the age of 46. His legacy includes more than 300 Lieder, including the song cycles Frauenliebe und Leben (A Woman’s Love and Life, 1840), and Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love) from the same year.
He also left us four symphonies, and one piano concerto written in A Minor between 1841-1845. However he had initially set out to become the greatest pianist of his generation, having been told by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could achieve precisely that. A persistent hand problem ended his dream. Instead, he turned to composition. His wife Clara, Wieck’s daughter, was a renowned concert pianist.
ECM Records have released this collection of Robert Schumann, The Violin Sonatas performed by violinist Carolin Widmann, and pianist Denes Varjon (ECM New Series 2047). Interestingly, they place the later work between the first two, thus placing Schumann’s second sonata at the end of the album. By doing this they justifiably acknowledge its importance within the genre.
Carolin Widmann was born in Munich, Germany and studied in Cologne, Boston, London, and Belgrade. Subsequently, her reputation is such that composers such as Matthias Pintscher, and Wolfgang Rihm, have written pieces for her. When her first CD was released in 2005 it won her the annual German Critics Prize.
Ms. Widmann began working alongside Denes Varjon in 2004. He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and took part in master classes with Andras Schiff whilst still in his teens.
They combine here to produce an album, recorded in August of 2007, which manages not only to underline the enduring genius of this troubled man, but also highlights their own remarkable talents in its performance.
Robert Schumann’s marriage signaled a time of driven creativity with Clara premiering many of his works. At one time he concentrated almost exclusively on writing Lieder. Next he turned to symphonic work. Short piano pieces such as Carnaval helped reveal a personal side of this complex character.