Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Three Romances by Schumann

Drei Romanzen by Robert Schumann is one of the finest works that oboists have from this period which so sorely neglects the double reeds. While the simple, elegant lines may sound effortless to the audience, this piece takes an extraordinary toll on the performer’s endurance. As a former teacher instructed me once –

Always program this piece first on your program so late-comers will enter after the first movement and give you a chance to breathe!

It is a work that I frequently find myself returning to but tonight it felt as though I saw part of this music for the first time. I was playing through the work and had reached the final movement when I made an abrupt stop; the written "low-A"! Originally for violin, oboists have adopted this piece and will fiercely defend it as really belonging to our side, thus being able to mentally block out the ossia parts.  After all, the scales are absurdly tipped in the violin’s favor when it comes to quality Romantic music. The third movement is characterized by a unison melody line between the oboe and piano. The free-flowing line is suddenly interrupted by a f pick-up note into an articulated octave motive. It is one of the few moments of outright playfulness that exists in the entire work. Uses of unique articulation and octaves are special moments in this piece as compared to the array of lyrical passages. The unfortunate drawback of the standard oboe is that it prevents this particular moment from being played when the material returns a third lower. Instead of octave “A’s”, one can only extend the first "A" of the bar into a quarter note.

Looking at the version for clarinet that also came with my Breitkpfe edition, the instrument’s naturally fitting range allows the music to be played with the original material.
Below is the passage as viewed from the piano score.

 Of course, I now only want to play this piece “as written”, so much as it is a violin piece. Essentially being able to double the amount of “jaunty” moments in the third movement makes this additional note well worth having. I am intrigued to examine other Schumann works to see what else can be adapted but for the moment, I am satisfied with playing through my very worn copy of the Drei Romanzen for what feels like the first time. 


  1. Schumann's op. 94 WAS originally written for oboe. The piece was composed as a gift to Clara.

    While violin and clarinet parts have been traditionally published with the score, that was not Schumann's original intent. It is a similar situation with the op. 73 and op. 104 (pieces for clarinet and horn, respectively), which have traditionally included a cello part.

  2. correction - op. 70, not op. 104

  3. is the oboe part the same as the clarinet part?