Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op 105, is the first of three violin sonatas. Written in 1851, it is largely motivated by a kind of early ‘gebrauchsmusik’, following Ferdinand David’s request for ‘intelligent new pieces’. Schumann was following the principles upon which his Fantasy Pieces for clarinet and piano were conceived three years earlier; writing to a ‘job spec’ played psychologically to Schumann’s strengths, reducing the heavy burden of feeling he had to compose sonatas in the great tradition. Fluency reigned here. Sonata no. 1 was composed in four days, and his wife Clara had the piano part under her illustrious fingers on the fifth.

Compelling breadth and spontaneity are evident as the first movement sets sail. ‘Mit leidenschaftlichem Ausdruck’ (With passionate expression) is meat and drink for Schumann, as the unsettled cantabile of the solo line seeks poetic resolution in its temperamental outbursts, poignant reflections and disoriented glances – all underpinned by a piano part at once brooding and assertive. Our transformation has required a few re-writings in solo figuration (and re-allocation of material) to provide a suitably idiomatic trumpet and piano dialogue still within Schumann’s characteristic ‘tonbild’.

Trumpet players are not usually faced with these sophisticated representations of structural implication and mood, and yet the instrument seems well positioned to project a particular urgency and yearning in the first movement. Similarly, the ‘moto perpetuo’ (‘Lebhaft’) of the last movement recalls the articulated world of the trumpet étude. The second movement is a beguiling foil whose ephemeral whimsy twists and turns with surprising flights of fancy (the early one in F minor, especially), all gathered up in a touching close that playfully belies its acutely judged atmosphere.

Parts included:

  • Trumpet in C
  • Piano

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