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Fantasiestücke, Op 88

'Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Piano Trio & Piano Quartet' (CDA67175)
Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Piano Trio & Piano Quartet
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No 1: Romanze: Nicht schnell, mit innigen Ausdruck
No 2: Humoreske: Lebhaft
No 3: Duett: Langsam und mit Ausdruck
No 4: Finale: Im Marsch-Tempo

Fantasiestücke, Op 88
Listening to the Fantasiestücke Op 88 we may wonder if Schumann had been reading through the late piano trios of Haydn. At any rate, its opening two numbers revert to the type of trio texture favoured by that earlier master, in which the piano dominates while the cello and the keyboard’s bass line move largely in parallel. The entire collection was clearly designed for domestic performance by amateurs, and Schumann himself drew attention to its more ‘delicate’ nature in comparison with his other chamber works for piano and strings.

The opening Romanze, with its melancholy folk-like melody, is a piece of touching simplicity. Its theme reappears in a more lively form as the first episode of the following Humoreske, so that once again we find Schumann planning two successive movements as an interlinked pair. The various episodes of this second piece recur in a circular design, with the opening march-like theme returning only at the end. This final reprise is an exact replica of the opening section, though Schumann adds a coda which charmingly allows the march to fade away into the distance.

The Duet of the third movement is for the two stringed instruments, who spin a melodic line of great beauty while the piano provides a gently rippling accompaniment. As for the finale, it returns to the march rhythm of the second piece, albeit in more grandiose style. The plain chordal texture of the march itself contrasts strongly with the intricate counterpoint of the first episode, which is designed as an elaborately interwoven series of canons in which the answering voice often appears in mirror form. Towards the end, the music turns to the major for a curiously disembodied coda in which the piano’s chorale-like melody is shadowed throughout in syncopation by the stringed instruments. After this, the music gradually dies away while the pianist plays fleeting passagework over a drone from the strings. But the coda also has its own tailpiece: a sudden spurt of energy which brings the work to a flamboyant conclusion after all.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2000

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