Movement 1: So rasch wie möglich
Movement 2: Andantino (getragen)
Movement 3: Scherzo: Sehr rasch und markiert
Movement 4: Rondo: Presto
I am enormously excited with the idea of your Second Sonata; it reminds me of so many happy as well as painful hours. I love it, as I do you. Your whole being is so clearly expressed in it, and besides, it’s not too obscure.
Only one thing. Do you want to leave the last movement as it was before? Better to change it and make it a bit easier because it is much too difficult. I understand it and can play it alright, but people, the public, even the connoisseurs for whom one actually writes, don’t understand it. You won’t take this badly, will you?
Robert didn’t take it badly, and wrote another finale which he felt also went better with the first movement.
Of his three piano sonatas, the G minor is by far the most concise. It is a work of great sweep and passion, typically combining dramatic urgency with moments of rapt tenderness. Schumann doesn’t wait to get our attention—he demands it in the first bar with that sudden, broken G minor chord. The first challenge he throws at the player is to mark the opening ‘As fast as possible’, only to urge him or her to go ‘faster’ and ‘still faster’ before the end is reached. The opening theme, which is imitated in the bass, uses the partial descending scale that became Clara’s motto in many of his piano works—a ‘cry from the heart’ for her when they were unable to be together. The beautiful slow movement, marked getragen (solemn), was originally a song that Robert wrote when he was eighteen years old. The calm doesn’t last for long, though. With the Scherzo comes the one bit of humour in the sonata: in its episodes in the major mode there is certainly a twinkle in his eye. The ‘new’ finale makes extensive use of broken octaves to express its restlessness, and the Clara motto appears in the lyrical second subject. The music works up to a feverish climax and a dramatic pause over a diminished seventh chord. The ensuing cadenza goes like the wind, never once letting up. Clara certainly got what she wanted.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2010