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As musical epistles during Robert and Clara's famous secret liaison, forbidden by her father Frederick Wieck, there could be no more eloquent expressions of love than the piano works composed at this time. As if in response to the Davidsbundlertänze are Clara's Three Romances Op 11 composed in 1838-9. While still infused with Chopinesque elements, they are replete with Robertisms, the syncopated passion of the second Romance in G minor with its fervent climaxes and simple motif turned ostinato akin to the Davidsbundlertänze, which is alluded to in the third waltz-like Romance in A flat. Most touching is the simple yet searching lyricism of the first Romance in E flat minor, its falling third motif developed in soulful transformations. Martino Tirimo's performance highlighted the pianistic felicities of these mature works, that deserve more airing, and as he noted in his perceptive programme notes, underlining the talent 'that makes one regret her decision to stop composing when only thirty five'.

But perhaps the most amazing epistle is Robert's Sonata No 3 in F minor which formed the climax of the programme. Schumann's sonatas are seldom performed, usually considered one of the works that merely attempt to replenish the fossilised prescriptive patterns of classical sonata design. Yet what is striking in this masterly work, is the extent to which Schumann injects, even within the formal mould of the late Beethovenian form, a thematicism and poetic elusiveness and chromaticism characteristic of his more fragmentary and cyclic Romantic works. And here the thematic kernel that blossoms within each of the four movements is none other than the falling five note motif of Clara's Andantino (though its exact source is not known), which figures most clearly in the third movement 'Quasi Variazioni: Andantino de Clara Wieck'. The expressive heart of the sonata, its gently flowing theme undergoes four richly chromatic variations. The passionate exuberance of the first movement, perhaps slightly overdone in its insistent sequential development of the falling note motif in both development and coda, is lightened somewhat by a contrasting dotted note theme, which Tirimo pointed with vigour. His virtuosic projection throughout propelled exhilarating momentum giving the lie to the subtitle 'Concert sans Orchestre' -- except that here the piano sounded as if it was the orchestre'! The central interlude of the Scherzo movement escapes formal stricture to evoke the epigrammatic rhetoric of an intermezzo, while the finale's electric moto perpetuo, sported motivic development at high speed with cross-hands command of the entire tessitura in fizzing filigree figurations. The performance was a tour de force, which highlighted the poetry and suppleness as well as passion behind the work's surface. It was fitting to close with two encores, a charming, and quite original Cappriccio by the twelve year old Clara, with racy repeated note passages, followed by another work evocative of childhood, contrasting in its relaxed reverie, Robert's Träumerei.

It offered a tempting appetizer for the following concert in Martino Tirimo's Robert and Clara series, on 22 June 2001, 7.30pm at St John's Smith Square. The programme includes Kinderszenen, Op 15, Clara's Scherzo in D minor, Op 10, Scherzo no.2 in C minor, Op 14 and Sonata in G minor, concluding with Robert's Etudes Symphoniques, Op 13.

Copyright © 25 May 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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