Saluting Robert Schumann's birthday with one of his most exquisite creations
Came up for air from several writing assignments and noticed that Tuesday is Robert Schumann's 200th birthday. I felt I just had to do something to acknowledge that.
I've always had a soft spot for Schumann's music, especially the songs and piano music. His brand of romanticism, so personal and distinctive, always strikes me as extraordinarily powerful. If I had to choose one example of that power, it would be the third movement from his Piano Quartet, one of my favorite moments in all of music.
His Piano Quintet gets much more attention, and it's a masterpiece, to be sure. But the Quartet deserves to be heard more often, if only for Schumann's musical poetry in that third movement, the Andante cantabile, a kind of exquisite song without words that invariably burrows under my skin.
This is especially so when performers take their time with it, a practice that was more common decades ago than in our faster-paced world. I found an old-style performance and a newer, brisker one to help illustrate my point. I'm putting my preferred version first -- a very spacious eight minutes. The second example is a couple minutes faster and, IMHO, nowhere near as affecting as a result. Let me know which tempo you prefer.
At any speed, I hope you'll agree with me that this really is a disarmingly sublime example of Schumann's melodic gift: