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August 4, 2009

Sonata sketch by Robert Schumann brought to light by Frederick Moyer and the Web

Frederick MoyerSchumann fans, especially those of a pianistic inclination, will want to delve into the sketches of an unfinished fourth sonata that can now be seen and heard, thanks to the Web and the extraordinary efforts of pianist Frederick Moyer and his uncle, Paul Green, an electrical engineer.

In brief, these guys tracked down the unfinished manuscript, deciphered Schumann's writing and prepared a performable edition. Then they created a very impressive download application that lets you follow, on the same page, both Schumann's original and the newly printed version, while listening to Moyer play the music (each measure is highlighted in sync with the playing).

You can zoom in on any spot of the score, and check out printed and audio commentary at various points along the way to learn more about ...

how Moyer and Green interpreted Schumann's intentions. The sonata sketch page of Moyer's Web site contains the download info, as well as an extremely detailed essay on the background of the abandoned fourth sonata. You can also download your own copy of the realized sketch.

This project is a very classy example of musicological excavation, IMHO, and the product is doubly enhanced by Moyer's sensitive, involving performance of this tantalizing music. He brings great commitment to the score, even those passages that Schumann clearly hadn't finished fleshing out, making it easy to appreciate the potential of the material -- and to regret all the more that the composer never got around to completing what he started.


Posted by Tim Smith at 2:09 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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