Obscure Music Monday: Schumann's Souvenir de Vienne
Clara Schumann (Sept. 13, 1819 - May 20, 1896) was a German composer and pianist, born to musical parents in Leipzig. Her father was well-known throughout Leipzig, where he sold and repaired pianos, and gave piano lessons. She took lessons from him, and he also made sure she was educated in music theory, counterpoint, harmony, and composition. She had her first recital at age 10, and had a wildly successful career as a pianist from that point onward, receiving praise from audiences and critics alike. The day before she turned 21 she married composer Robert Schumann.
In 1838, Schumann took a trip to Vienna, where the young pianist had great success. She was incredibly fond of the bustling city, and in tribute to it, she wrote an impromptu: Souvenir de Vienne. This piece is based on a piece originally written by Joseph Haydn in 1797, that was meant as a birthday anthem to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg. Listeners will recognize the theme as the German national anthem!
Schumann takes this familiar theme and starts it off humbly, and as the piece continues, the variations of the accompanying line are all wonderfully different and elaborate in their own way. It's one of her earlier works (Op. 9) but it clearly displays her brilliant and engaging writing.
Here are some recordings of this great work for you to enjoy!*
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