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Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op 102
April 1849

'Schumann: Music for cello & piano' (CDA67661)
Schumann: Music for cello & piano
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67661 
No 1: Mit Humor 'Vanitas vanitatum'
No 2: Langsam
No 3: Nicht schnell, mit viel Ton zu spielen
No 4: Nicht zu rasch
No 5: Stark und markiert

Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op 102
The Stücke im Volkston occupy a very different world from any of the other works on this programme; perhaps they proved more challenging to Schumann, since they took him over two weeks to compose—considerably longer than any of the others. Having heard him earlier in dream-fantasy mode, singing songs of love and night, creating a large classical structure, and then looking back to the distant past, we now encounter Schumann writing in a ‘popular’ spirit, in a simpler harmonic and rhythmic style that (to a certain extent) emulates folk music. Perhaps here the effects of the revolution can be heard after all; it is conceivable that Schumann, that most rarefied of beings, was trying to establish his credentials (as in several of his vocal works) as a ‘man of the people’.

The first piece is subtitled ‘vanitas vanitatum’, a favourite saying of Schumann’s; it may owe something to a poem of that name by Goethe, which tells the tale of a drunken, one-legged soldier. The second movement, in F major—Schumann’s happiest or most consoling key—sounds like a lullaby, rocking gently between three- and four-bar phrases. The heart of the work lies in the central third movement, its sparse, tragic accompaniment recalling a song from Dichterliebe: ‘Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet’ (‘In a dream I wept’). The fourth piece is joyous, carefree—even triumphant. But we are not given a happy ending: the finale is positively fierce—a portrait of a monster, perhaps? A good German monster, who will drag off to a grizzly end any child who misbehaves in any way. Quite right.

from notes by Steven Isserlis © 2009

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Details for CDA67661 track 14
Mit Humor 'Vanitas vanitatum'
Recording date
30 June 2008
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Schumann: Music for cello & piano (CDA67661)
    Disc 1 Track 14
    Release date: March 2009
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