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Schumann: Violin Concerto

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In the autumn of 1851 Schumann composed, in rapid succession, the two violin sonatas and, in the space of just seven days from 2 to 9 October, the Piano Trio no.3, Op.110. As always during his work, Schumann was oblivious to everything around him, neglected social obligations, and isolated himself – even from Clara. ‘Robert is working very assiduously on a trio for piano, violin, and cello,’ she confided to her diary, ‘but he won’t let me hear anything of it until he has quite finished it – all I know is that it’s in G minor.’

This trio, like all his other chamber works with piano, was tailor-made for Clara to play and right from the first rehearsal session in the domestic circle she went into a veritable frenzy of delight: ‘It is original, absolutely full of passion, especially the scherzo, which sweeps one away to the wildest depths’, Just a little bit of that same enthusiasm would probably have spared the Violin Concerto a great deal of opprobrium: Clara witheld the score, as did the dedicatee, Joachim. It was finally premiered in Berlin on 26 November 1937, more than 80 years after it was composed, with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karl Böhm and the violinist Georg Kulenkampff. Yehudi Menuhin had the privilege of making the first commercial recording, produced in the following year, 1938, with the New York Philharmonic under its British principal conductor John Barbirolli.

This first volume in a trilogy comprising the complete concertos and piano trios of Schumann brings together two late and unjustly neglected works. The instigators of the project, Isabelle Faust, Alexandre Melnikov and Jean-Guihen Queyras, champion their cause with a force of conviction and a choice of instruments that restore the delicate transparency and subtlety of their textures. The next release will be of the Piano Concerto and Piano Trio No. 2.

“The idea for this CD project arose during a tour on which we performed Robert Schumann’s Trio Op.80. As passionate admirers of the composer, we conceived the desire to place his works for piano, violin and cello in a broader context and to illuminate them mutually in order to allow listeners to gain a deeper understanding of his music. We soon agreed to play the pieces for this recording on a historical piano and stringed instruments with gut strings, using orchestral forces to match. Pablo Heras-Casado and the Freiburger Barockorchester sprang spontaneously to mind as the ideal partners for a project of this kind. Our shared journey into the magical world of this incomparable composer will remain with us as an exceptionally intense, happy, and fulfilling experience.” Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Jean-Guihen Queyras.

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