Schumann (1810-1856) combines the German penchant or literary inspiration with a highly personal, even autobiographical, impulse in his music. He divides his psyche into 2 personalities: Florestan, the outgoing optimist; and Eusebius, the introspective dreamer. The Fantasie – composed as part of a project from Franz Liszt to pay homage to Beethoven – quotes from B’s song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved) as a love-song, and simultaneously, to Schumann’s fiancé, Clara Wieck. The 2nd mvmt literally absorbs the rhythm from B’s Sonata No. 28, Op. 101. The last mvmt’s dreamy quality is close in spirit to B’s “Moonlight” Sonata.
Schumann’s Romantic spirit has freedom of expression in Kreisleriana, taken from the writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann. The individual sections alternate between quick and slow, happily energetic and melancholy, introspective. Hoffmann’s Kreisler is a skilled musician and artist, a kind of chameleon the Romantics worshipped as a “fantastic character.”
The “Scenes of Childhood” constitute 13 episodes of domestic life as seen both from a child’s perspective and that of an adult who cherishes childhood’s world of awe and wonder. “Of Foreign Lands and Peoples” captures the “long ago and faraway” lure of the exotic in Romantic music. The most famous section, Träumerie (Dreams), was a perpetual encore of Russian virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz. In the last section, Schumann himself seems to appear, passing a final judgment on the innocent wonders that have passed through his imagination.