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
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