April 25, 2021
Beethoven & the Schumanns
“(Archibald’s playing is) seemingly effortless… a natural in every sense.”
— Houston Magazine
Fairy Tale Pictures, op. 113, for viola and piano
Nocturne in F Major, op. 6, no. 2, for piano
Nocturne in B-flat for piano
Ludwig van Beethoven:
Sonata in F Major, op, 24, for violin and piano
Evening Song, op.85, no. 12, for viola and piano
“Terrific music-making by colleagues whose enjoyment and passion drew the audience in.”
—Tom May, Memeteria
Robert and Clara Schumann were two of the most influential musicians in 19th-century Europe. Through Robert’s work as a music critic and Clara’s as a pianist and teacher, they had a major impact on the development of a canon of standard concert repertoire which has remained largely intact to this day. Central to that canon is the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, including his ten sonatas for violin and piano which Clara often performed on concert tours with the violinist Joseph Joachim.
The famous story of the love between Robert and Clara Schumann reads like the synopsis to a Romantic operatic tragedy. They fell in love while piano students of Clara’s tyrannical father and eventually married against his wishes. His retaliation included withholding all of Clara’s assets, including money she had earned on concert tours and even her own piano.
Meanwhile, Robert was struggling increasingly with mental illness, attempted suicide, and eventually had himself committed to an insane asylum. The authorities at the asylum decided that he should not be allowed to see Clara, and only relented at the very end of his life, by which time he may not have been able to recognize her. A theme of longing for the innocence of childhood recurs throughout Robert’s work, and can be heard in his late “Fairy Tale Pictures” for viola and piano.
Clara Schumann was known first as a child prodigy, then as one of her century’s greatest pianists and an outstanding teacher, and finally as the wife of the composer Robert Schumann whose music she tirelessly championed. Her genius as a composer has only recently begun to be fully acknowledged. Her Nocturne in F is an early work which shows the influence of Frederic Chopin. Chopin, in turn, had been influenced by the work of the great Polish pianist Maria Szymanowska, represented on our program by her Nocturne in B-flat.
The Sonata in F for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven is one of his most popular chamber works. It has become known as his “Spring” Sonata, although that nickname was not given by the composer. In any case it is a remarkably sunny and cheerful work by a composer experiencing hearing loss and profound despair.
Robert Schumann’s “Evening Song” was originally intended as a duet for piano, three hands. One pianist is assigned the melody; the other accompanies. This beautiful melody has been transcribed for various other instruments and is especially well suited to the viola.