Fantasiestücke, Op. 12

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Robert Schumann's Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, is a set of eight pieces for piano, written in 1837. The title was inspired by the 1814–15 collection of novellas, essays, treatises, letters, and writings about music, Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier (which also included the complete Kreisleriana, another source of inspiration for Schumann) by one of his favourite authors, E. T. A. Hoffmann. Schumann dedicated the pieces to Fräulein Anna Robena Laidlaw, an accomplished and attractive 18-year-old Scottish pianist with whom Schumann had become good friends.[1]

Schumann composed the pieces with the characters Florestan and Eusebius in mind, representing the duality of his personality. Eusebius depicts the dreamer in Schumann while Florestan represents his passionate side. These two characters parlay with one another throughout the collection, ending self-reflectively with Eusebius in "Ende vom Lied".


First page of Schumann's draft for "Des Abends"

1. "Des Abends" ("In the Evening") in D major / Sehr innig zu spielen (Play very intimately)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 1 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"Des Abends" (3:23 minutes)

Schumann, after completing the work, then gave the piece its title, which introduces the character of Eusebius, who serves as a symbolic representation of Schumann's dreamy self. He intended the imagery to be a "gentle picture of dusk."[2]

2. "Aufschwung" ("Soaring", literally "Upswing") in F minor / Sehr rasch (Very rapidly)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 2 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"Aufschwung" (3:29 minutes)

Schumann conceived of "Aufschwung" as a depiction of the character Florestan indulging in his desires, and as the Norton Anthology of Western Music describes "at the height of his passions."[3]

3. "Warum?" ("Why?") in D major / Langsam und zart (Slowly and tenderly)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 3 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"Warum?" (1:37 minutes)

The title "Why?" was intended by Schumann to signify Eusebius's reflection on the excesses of Florestan in "Aufschwung".[3] The piece proceeds with "gentle questioning" and ends with an "inconclusive answer."[2]

4. "Grillen" ("Whims") in D major / Mit Humor (With humor)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 4 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"Grillen" (3:47 minutes)

With its whimsical, quirky nature, this piece solely represents Florestan and his eccentricities.[2]

5. "In der Nacht" ("In the Night") in F minor / Mit Leidenschaft (With passion)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 5 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"In der Nacht" (4:25 minutes)

The two characters of Florestan and Eusebius (the interaction of which Schumann was attempting to represent within the Fantasiestücke) unite for the first time in this piece, which has both "passion together with nocturnal calm."[2] Schumann is said to have perceived in "In der Nacht" the story of Hero and Leander, albeit not until after writing it.

6. "Fabel" ("Fable") in C major / Langsam (Slowly)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 6 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"Fabel" (2:09 minutes)

Like the previous piece, this also juxtaposes both the passionate and dreamy side of Schumann within the same work (as opposed to representing each separately, as in the first subset). The key of C major breaks from the pattern of D major/F minor established by the previous pieces. In this piece, the whimsical nature of Florestan is set against the ethereal tranquility of Eusebius, resulting in a "placid narrative together with rich veins of humor."[2]

7. "Traumes Wirren" ("Dream's Confusions") in F major / Äußerst lebhaft (Extremely lively)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 7 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"Traumes Wirren" (2:43 minutes)

The title is implicative of the struggle between the dreams and the passions within Schumann. In this piece the dreamy quality of Schumann, represented by the character of Eusebius, becomes entangled by the passions of Florestan, who symbolizes Schumann's more emotional side. Like the previous piece, this piece also departs from the established D major/F minor key signature scheme, as it is written in the key of F major which is also the key of "Ende vom Lied", the next piece. The piece is rhythmically intense and a rapid pulse permeates it.[2]

8. "Ende vom Lied" ("End of the Song") in F major / Mit gutem Humor (With good humor)

R. Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, Nr. 8 - Incipit.jpg About this sound"Ende vom Lied" (4:01 minutes)

Schumann described this piece as a combination of wedding bells and funeral bells. In a letter to his fiancée Clara Wieck, who would become his wife, Clara Schumann, three years later, he wrote about this last piece: "At the time, I thought: well in the end it all resolves itself into a jolly wedding. But at the close, my painful anxiety about you returned."[2]


  1. ^ J. C. Hadden, "Laidlaw , Anna Robena Keddy (1819–1901)", rev. Anne Pimlott Baker, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online ed., May 2008 accessed 28 Jan 2015 (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ewen, David, The Complete Book of Classical Music, p. 474, Prentice Hall, 1965
  3. ^ a b J. Peter Burkholder, Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music, Vol. 2: Classic to Twentieth Century, fifth edition, Norton, New York London, 2006

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