Robert Schumann

Phantasiestücke in A minor

Op. 88

About this work

The Phantasiestücke is really a trio and often simply listed as Schumann's Trio for violin, cello, and piano in A minor. The work came at a happy time in the composer's life: Schumann had married his beloved Clara Wieck in 1840 after her father had made many attempts to thwart their matrimonial plans. The four pieces, or movements, comprising the trio are "Romanze," "Humoreske," "Duett," and Finale. The "Romanze" opens in a tentative, mysterious mood, but then turns warmly Romantic, the piano dominating throughout. Lasting only two-and-a-half minutes or so, this is the shortest of the four pieces. The ensuing "Humoreske," marked Lebhaft (Lively), is the longest at about seven minutes and, by contrast, quite chipper and playful in its outer sections, featuring one of Schumann's catchiest themes. Its repetitive rhythmic downward turn gives this piece its self-deprecating wit, or its "humorous" manner. The interior panel here is lively and heroic, but does not completely break with the playful character of the opening. Following a driving, intense episode based on the main theme, the theme returns to its original guise to close out the movement. The "Duett" that follows, marked Langsam und mit ausdruck (Slowly and with feeling), is for cello and violin, the piano providing a soft, running accompaniment to their passionate singing. The Finale, designated Im Marsch-Tempo (In march tempo), exhibits a heroic character at the outset, but turns lighter and more playful in succeeding variations. The main theme returns and the subdued, lively ending is sheer magic in its feathery nonchalance, its graceful instrumental exchanges, and sense of joy. The Phantasiestücke typically have a duration of 16 or 17 minutes.