Movement 1: Sehr lebhaft
Movement 2: Mit innigem Ausdruck
Movement 3: In mässiger Bewegnung
Movement 4: Nicht zu rasch
No less song-like than the opening movement’s Eichendorff quotation is the long, inspired melody that unfolds in the opening page of the slow movement. Schumann had apparently intended to incorporate a further specific reference to the Eichendorff theme here, though in view of the prominence it has already assumed in the opening movement it was no doubt wise of him to abandon the idea. All the same, the descending shape of the slow movement’s melody provides an oblique reference to the earlier theme. The main melodic line in the opening bars lies in the violin part; but we may note that the cello and the piano play a long-sustained canon, and that the chromatically rising phrase with which the canon begins is one that will assume great importance in the further progress of the piece.
Schumann’s dictum that ‘the best fugue will always be the one that the public takes – for a Strauss waltz; in other words, where the artistic roots are covered as are those of a flower, so that we only perceive the blossom’ is one that could well apply not only to the artless counterpoint of his slow movement, but also to the intermezzo-like third movement, whose sighing theme is given out in canon throughout. The figuration of the more flowing middle section is taken over into the first half of the reprise, before a coda binds the two parts of the piece together.
The finale appears to take its point of departure from the flowing lines of the previous movement’s middle section, too. The entire piece draws its material from the three main constituents of its opening theme: the sinuous legato phrases with which the piano launches the piece; the staccato idea with which the cello responds, and which – as with the similar motif in the opening movement of the D minor Trio – will provide the basis for some close-knit imitative writing later on; and the first assertive phrase on the violin, which returns to form an important secondary theme. This last idea is reiterated over and over again in the coda, to bring the work to a close in an atmosphere of mounting excitement.
from notes by Misha Donat © 1999