How to practice gamakas in violin strings

The title of the Novellettes, Op 21 was suggested to Schumann at least in part by the name of Clara — not his own bride-to-be, however, but the English singer Clara Novello, whom Mendelssohn had brought to Leipzig as a guest artist at the opera. At the same time, yet another Clara, or Clärchen, was in his mind: the heroine of Goethe’s drama Egmont. As Schumann explained to his own Clara at the beginning of February 1838:
I have composed a frightful amount for you in the last three weeks: light-hearted things, Egmont stories, family scenes with fathers, a wedding — in short, the most amiable things; and have named the whole work Novellettes ’, because you are called Clara and Wiecketten’ doesn’t have a good enough ring to it.

In the end, to avoid any friction on the home front, Schumann dedicated the Novellettes to neither Clara, but instead to the pianist Adolph Henselt, with whom he had spent an agreeable Christmas Eve the previous year. Henselt subsequently moved to St Petersburg, where the Schumanns met him during their Russian tour in 1844. But by then they found he had become "impossibly pedantic".

The Novellettes form what is at once the largest and the least known among Schumann’s major piano cycles. The music itself is of consistently high quality (years later, Schumann himself still regarded this among his most successful works), and clearly written in an exultant mood. Its main key is D major, though, as he so often liked to do, Schumann begins away from that basic key, with a piece that provides no hint of the tonal focus to come. That first number, indeed, modulates so relentlessly that no single key is established at all until the onset of its F major trio section. The opening march-like idea encapsulates the tonal plan of the piece as a whole: although the music progresses in a single sweep, it cadences firmly three times — first into F major, then into D flat major, and finally A major. These are the keys in which the contrasting episodes are set: first, a soaring F major melody above an accompaniment in smooth triplets; then a densely contrapuntal passage based on descending scale patterns (following this episode, the initial march theme makes the briefest of returns with the music still in D flat major); and finally a reprise of the first episode, this time in A major.

Schumann’s sketch for the second Novellette describes it as ‘Saracene and Suleika’ — a reference to the two central characters of Goethe’s collection of poems called the West-east divan. The Saracen is the singer and poet Hatem, depicted in the outer sections of Schumann’s piece with their virtuoso staccato arpeggio figures. Suleika appears in the slower middle section, and her calming influence clearly exerts its pull over Hatem: the return to his agitated material unfolds at first in a sustained pianissimo. Schumann sent this piece to Liszt, whose flamboyant keyboard manner may perhaps have prompted the tempo marking of the outer sections in the first place: Extremely quickly and with flying colors. Schumann heard Liszt play the Novellette in Leipzig, in March 1840, and reported to Clara: ‘The 2nd Novellette gave me great joy; you can scarcely believe what an effect it makes. He [Liszt] wants to play it in his third concert here, too. ’

No less of a virtuoso piece is the third number of the cycle (for Schumann, this was a ‘Macbeth-Novellette’), with the light, staccato sonority of its outer sections bringing with them a hint of the Mendelssohnian scherzo style. The music begins momentarily as though it is to be in B minor — a suggestion that is strengthened by the actual use of that key in the wildly agitated, syncopated intermezzo which forms the central portion of the piece.

The fourth Novellette takes us straight into the ballroom, where a waltz of almost manic cheerfulness is unfolding. Gradually the pace of the swirling music increases — first, through an intensifying of its rate of harmonic change, until we reach a splendidly uplifting shift of key taking us from D into C major; and then through an actual acceleration of tempo leading ultimately to a series of crashing chords which momentarily subverts the waltz rhythm.

It is tempting to discern a barely disguised expression of anger in the ‘noisy’ polonaise (Rauschend und festlich is Schumann’s marking), with its stamping rhythm, that forms the fifth of the Novellettes. The music, with its off-beat accents, is agitated and restless, and its central episode expounds on the stamping rhythm with wrist-breaking obstinacy. At the end, the rhythmic motif, with its characteristic minor-major alternation, recedes into the distance, as though with a deep sigh of regret.

The sixth Novellette is a piece that presents a continual acceleration. Characteristically opening on a dissonance, it is a whirlwind kaleidoscope of contrasting moods coupled with a bewildering succession of keys. At the end, as the music threatens to spiral out of control, Schumann sounds the notes of the violin’s open ’strings, as though in an attempt to bring some order into the tonal chaos. But before he can do so, the piece abruptly disappears in a puff of smoke.

The beautiful floating melody of the middle section in the cycle’s penultimate piece offers brief respite from all the frenetic activity, but this is otherwise another scherzo which rushes past without pausing to draw breath.

As for the last of the Novellettes, it is at once the longest and formally the most complex piece in the collection. It sets out as a passionately agitated piece in F sharp minor, with two trios — the first of them in D flat major; the second, with its imitation of hunting horns, in a bright D major. However, the second trio does not lead, as had the first, to a return of the opening material. Instead, the mood changes to one of intimacy, and above the pervasive dotted rhythm Schumann introduces a smooth melody which he describes as a ‘voice from afar’. The distant voice quotes the Notturno ’from Clara Wieck’s Soirées musicales, Op 6, and at this point the music sinks as though towards a resigned D major conclusion. But instead, Schumann embarks on what appears to be an entirely fresh departure — one that is, however, significantly marked Continuation and Ending. Its integration with the earlier, apparently self-contained, portion of the piece is assured by the reintroduction of the "voice from afar" in a more emphatic form during the closing pages. Nevertheless, in a remarkable instance of "progressive" tonality, the music ends not in the key of its beginning, but in D major — the principal key of the cycle as a whole.

from notes by Misha Donat © 2014

Novellettes (op.21): ce titre fut suggéré à Schumann, en partie du moins, par le nom de Clara — non sa future épouse, mais Clara Novello, la cantatrice anglaise que Mendelssohn avait invitée à se produire à l’opéra de Leipzig. Au même moment, une autre Clara, ou Clärchen, occupait l’esprit de Schumann: l’héroïne d ’Egmont, le drame de Goethe. Comme il s’en expliqua à sa Clara, au début de février 1838:
J'ai composé un nombre effroyable de choses pour toi ces trois dernières semaines — des badineries, des histoires d'Egmont, des scènes de famille avec des pères, un mariage, bref des choses toute gentilles — et j'ai nommé le tout « Novellettes ", parce que tu t'appelles Clara et que" Wiecketten "ne sun pas assez bien.

Finalement, pour éviter toute friction à la maison, Schumann ne dédia pas ses Novellettes à une Clara, mais au pianiste Adolph Henselt, avec qui il avait passé une agréable veille de Noël l’année précédente. Henselt s’installa ensuite à Saint-Pétersbourg, où les Schumann vinrent le voir pendant leur tournée russe, en 1844. Mais ce fut pour découvrir qu’il était devenu “insupportablement pédant”.

Les Novellettes sont à la fois le plus vaste et le plus méconnu des grands cycles pianistiques Schumanniens, avec une musique toujours de haute tenue (des années plus tard, Schumann y voyait encore une de ses œuvres les plus réussies), écrite à l'évidence dans un climat d'exultation. Son ton principal est ré majeur même si, comme il aimait tant à le faire, Schumann commence loin de ce ton, avec une pièce qui ne laisse en rien présager le center tonal à venir. Au vrai, ce premier morceau module tellement qu’aucune tonalité ne s’installe avant le début de la section en trio en fa majeur. L'idée d'ouverture, façon marche, résume le plan tonal de toute l'œuvre: bien que progressant d'une traite, la musique cadence fermement trois fois, en fa majeur, en ré bémol majeur et, enfin, en la majeur . Ce sont là les tons des épisodes contrastifs: une mélodie filante, en fa majeur, par-dessus un accompagnement en triolets réguliers; puis un passage densément contrapuntique fondé sur des motifs en gamme descendante (après cet épisode, le thème de marche initial accomplit le plus bref des retours, avec la musique encore en ré bémol majeur); enfin, une reprise du premier episode, cette fois en la majeur.

L’esquisse schumannienne de la deuxième Novellette porte la mention “Saracen and Suleika”, référence aux deux personnages centraux du West-east divan, le recueil de poèmes goethéen. Le Sarrasin est le poète et chanteur Hatem, dépeint dans les sections extrêmes de la pièce par les virtuoses figures staccato arpégées. Suleika apparaît dans la section centrale plus lente, et son influence apaisante agit à l’évidence sur Hatem: le retour au matériau agité du poète s’éploie d’abord en un pianissimo soutenu. Schumann envoya cette pièce à Liszt, dont le jeu flamboyant suscita peut-être l’indication de tempo originalelle des sections extrêmes: Extremely fast and with flying colors. Schumann entendit Liszt interpréter cette Novellette à Leipzig, en mars 1840, et il confia à Clara: «La deuxième Novellette en ré majeur m’a procuré une grande joie; elle fait un de ces effets, tu vas à peine le croire; il [Liszt] veut also la jouer ici, dans son troisième concert. "

Tout aussi virtuose est le troisième morceau du cycle (Schumann y voyait une "Macbeth-Novellette"), la légère sonorité staccato de ses sections extrêmes amenant un je-ne-sais-quoi du style de scherzo mendelssohnien. La musique démarre d’emblée comme si elle allait être en si mineur — a hypothèse renforcée par l’usage de cette tonalité dans l’intermezzo furieusement agité, syncopé, qui est au cœur de l’œuvre.

La quatrième Novellette nous entraîne droit dans la salle de bal, où se joue une valse d’une allégresse presque folle. Peu à peu, le rythme de la musique tourbillonnante s’accélère — d’abord, via une intensification de son taux de changement harmonique, jusqu’à une transition tonale superbement édifiante, de ré à ut majeur; puis, via une accélération de tempo débouchant sur une série d’accords retentissants qui corrompent immédiatement le rythme de valse.

Il est tentant de discerner une colère à peine voilée dans la polonaise “bruyante” (Intoxicating and festive, indique Schumann), au rythme marqué, qu’est la cinquième Novellette. La musique, aux accents syncopés, est agitée, nerveuse, et son épisode central assène le rythme marqué avec une obstination à vous briser le poignet. À la fin, le motif rythmique, à l’alternance mineur-majeur caractéristique, s’évanouit dans le lointain, comme avec un profond soupir de regret.

La sixième Novellette, qui présente une accélération continue et s’ouvre sur l’habituelle dissonance, est un kaléidoscope tourbillonnant de climats contrastés, couplé à une déconcertante succession de tonalités. À la fin, quand la musique menace de partir en spirale incontrôlée, Schumann fait sonner les cordes «à vide» du violon, comme pour tenter de mettre un peu d'ordre dans le chaos tonal. Mais avant qu’il ait pu le faire, la pièce disparaît brusquement dans une bouffée de fumée.

La belle mélodie flottante de la section centrale, dans l'avant-dernière pièce du cycle, repose un peu de toute l'activité frénétique mais, en dehors de cela, c'est encore un scherzo qui file sans la moindre pause où reprendre haleine .

La dernière Novellette est la plus longue et la plus complexe du recueil. Elle démarre comme une pièce passionnément agitée en fa dièse mineur, présentant deux trios — le premier est en ré bémol majeur tandis que le second, avec son imitation de cor de chasse, est en un éclatant ré majeur. Mais, contrairement au premier, il ne débouche pas sur un retour du matériau inaugural. Le climat verse plutôt dans l’intime et, par-dessus l’invasif rythme pointé, Schumann introduit une mélodie douce qu’il décrit comme une “voix du lointain”. Cette voix distante cite le «Notturno» des Soirées musicales, op.6, de Clara Wieck et la musique semble alors sombrer vers une conclusion résignée, en ré majeur. Au lieu de quoi Schumann se lance dans ce qui s’apparente à un tout nouveau départ — mais marqué d’un significatif Continuation and conclusion. Son intégration dans la portion antérieure, apparemment autonome, de l’œuvre est assurée par la réintroduction, dans les pages conclusives, de la “voix du lointain”, sous une forme davantage vigoureuse. Néanmoins, dans un remarquable example de tonalité “progressive”, la musique ne dates pas dans le ton initial mais en ré majeur — le ton principal de tout le cycle.

extrait des notes rà © digà © es par Misha Donat © 2014
Français: Hypà © rion

The suggestion for the title of the Novellettes, op. 21, Schumann received, at least in part, through the name Clara - not that of his future bride, but that of the English singer Clara Novello, whom Mendelssohn had brought to the Leipzig Opera as a guest artist. At the same time, Schumann had another Clara, or rather Clärchen, in mind: the heroine of Goethe's tragedy Egmont. He told his own Clara at the beginning of February 1838:
So in the last three weeks I've composed an awful lot for you — fun things, Egmont stories, family scenes with fathers, a wedding, in short, extremely amiable things — and called the whole thing novelettes because your name is Clara and Wiecketten doesn't sound good enough.

In the end, in order to avoid tension at home, Schumann dedicated the Novellettes not one of the Claras, but the pianist Adolph Henselt, with whom he had spent a pleasant Christmas Eve the year before. Henselt later went to St. Petersburg, where the Schumanns met him during their tour of Russia in 1844. But then they found that he had become “a bit like a schoolmaster”.

The Novellettes represent the largest and at the same time most unknown of Schumann's important piano cycles. The music is of consistently high quality (Schumann counted the cycle as one of his most successful works even years later) and was obviously written in an exuberant mood. The main key is D major, even if Schumann begins, as he often did repeatedly, with a passage away from the basic key that offers no indication of the coming tonal center. The first piece actually modulates so incessantly that not a single key is established by the beginning of the trio section in F major. The march-like idea at the beginning contains the tonal structure of the piece as a whole: although the music advances in a single swing, it cadences three times decisively - first in F major, then in D flat major and finally in A major. The contrasting episodes are in these keys: first an ascending melody in F major over a calm triplet accompaniment; then a dense contrapuntal passage based on descending scales (after this episode the marching theme returns very briefly from the beginning, still in D flat major); and finally the recapitulation of the first episode, this time in A major.

In Schumann's draft for the second Novellette this is referred to as "Saracen and Suleika" - a reference to the two main characters in Goethe's collection of poems West-east divan. The Saracen is the singer and poet Hatem, who is represented in the frame parts of Schumann's piece with virtuoso staccato arpeggios. Suleika appears in the slower middle section, and her calming influence clearly affects Hatem: when his excited music returns, it first unfolds in a serene pianissimo. Schumann sent his piece to Liszt, whose great piano style could have prompted the tempo designation for the frame parts: extremely quickly and with flying colors. Schumann heard Liszt with her Novellette in March 1840 in Leipzig and reported to Clara: “I especially enjoyed the second one Novellette in D major; You can hardly believe what an effect it makes; he [Liszt] also wants to play it here in his 3rd concert. "

No less virtuoso is the third piece in the cycle (Schumann viewed it as a “Macbeth” novellette) with the slight staccato sound of the frame parts, which suggest Mendelssohn's Scherzo style. The music begins briefly as if it were in B minor; this assumption is confirmed by the actual use of this key in the wildly moving, syncopated intermezzo that forms the center of the piece.

The fourth Novellette leads directly into the ballroom, where a waltz of almost manic serenity unfolds. Gradually the tempo of the swirling music accelerates - first by intensifying harmonic changes until there is a great uplifting key change from D to C major; then by an actual tempo acceleration that finally leads to a series of thunderous chords that temporarily undermine the waltz rhythm.

You could be in the fifth Novellette, the “noisy” polonaise (Rauschend und Festlich is Schumann's name), with their pounding rhythm make a barely veiled expression of anger. The music with its opening accents is excited and restless, and the central episode unfolds in the pounding rhythm with an obstinacy that is exhausting for the wrists. At the end the rhythmic motif disappears in the distance with its characteristic minor-major change, as if with a deep sigh of regret.

The sixth Novellette is continuously getting faster. With the characteristic beginning of a dissonance, it is a swirling kaleidoscope of contrasting moods that combine with an amazing sequence of keys. At the end, when the music threatens to get out of control, Schumann lets the tones of the “empty” violin strings sound as if he was trying to bring some order into the tonal chaos. But before that, the piece suddenly fades away, as it were in a cloud of smoke.

The beautiful flowing melody of the middle section in the penultimate piece of the cycle offers a brief respite from all the feverish activity, but on the other hand this is another scherzo that rushes by restlessly.

The last Novellette is at the same time the longest and formally most difficult piece of the cycle. It begins as a passionately excited piece in F sharp minor, with two trios — the first in D flat major; the second, which mimics the sound of hunting horns, in glowing D major. Unlike the first, the second trio does not return to the material of the beginning. Instead, the mood becomes intimate, and Schumann introduces a calm melody over the piercing dotted rhythm, which he describes as a “voice from afar”. The distant voice quotes the "Nocturno" from Clara Wiecks Soirées musicales, op. 6, and at this point the music seems to sink to a resigned D major ending. Instead, Schumann embarks on a completely new departure, which, however, is strikingly referred to as a continuation and an end. Its connection with the earlier, obviously independent part of the piece is secured by the more emphatic return of the “voice from a distance” in the final bars. Still, the piece does not end (a notable example of “progressive” tonality) in the key of the opening, but in D major — the main key in the cycle as a whole.

from the accompanying text by Misha Donat © 2014
German: Christiane Frobenius