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JENNIFER PAULL investigates
Robert Schumann's Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO 23


The first time I heard the Schumann Violin Concerto was in Vienna under the inspired direction of Bruno Maderna. As I sat waiting for the soloist to walk onto the stage, I couldn't help but ask myself why it was that this work was performed so relatively seldom.

The first movement returns again and again to a deep inner struggle pierced by moments of poignant reflection. Recurring trills in the solo line seem to reflect Destiny's headshakes in a repeated refusal of the inevitable. The second movement's deep melancholy is breathtakingly beautiful. A 'cello melody, syncopated as if there is a heartbeat between thought and reality, introduces the movement. Schumann uses the bassoon to great effect, adding it to the colours weaving through profound sadness. The third movement is linked to the second, and in awakening hope, brings an optimistic, triumphant conclusion.

I had cherished the Enigma Variations by Sir Edward Elgar for many years. Surely Schumann's slow movement was their secret enigma? Elgar's theme is the mirror image of Schumann's in many ways. He composed his masterpiece forty-six years after Schumann wrote the Violin Concerto, the same elapsed space of time that Schumann had lived. Yet Elgar could not have gained access to its manuscript which was hidden away. It was to be one of his friends, however, whose insistence succeeded in rescuing it from banishment three years after his very own death in 1934.

How could there have been so much injustice, a conspiracy of silence, a ban on publication, so many complexities in finding the manuscript as well as Nazi propaganda, all surrounding such a beautiful work?

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Copyright © 1 March 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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