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It only took Robert Schumann 4 days in April of 1838 to write Kreisleriana, 8 Fantasies for Piano, Op. 16. In the score, Schumann dedicated the work to Chopin. However, like many of his compositions, Kreisleriana is really a testament of his love to Clara Wieck.
Schumann wrote of Kreisleriana that "the title is understandable only to Germans. Kreisler is a figure created by E.T.A. Hoffmann ... an eccentric, wild and clever Kapellmeister." The piece has all of those qualities that Schumann described of Kreisler, but it is also, at times, very tender and passionate.
The first fantasy is titled "Ausserst bewegt" which translates as "Extremely moving." It begins with a wild section in the key of D minor. Soon there is a transition into a lyrical B flat major central section. The movement concludes with a return to the key of D minor.
The next fantasy is "Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch" (Very inwardly and not too quickly). It begins with a slow, reflective B flat major section. This leads into a quick Intermezzo in G minor followed by a return to the opening section. After the recap of the opening section, another Intermezzo in G minor appears this time in a more passionate guise. The Intermezzo moves into dark chromaticism that finds its way back to the final appearance of the opening.
"Sehr aufgereg" (Very agitated) also contains another lyrical slow movement in the key of B flat major that is flanked by two outer quick section in G minor that are very similar to those of the first movement.
"Sehr langsam" (Very slowly) is once again in B flat major. This is one of the most lyrical and poetic of the eight movements. The movement sets a tranquil atmosphere reflective of Schumann's love for Clara.
Next comes "Sehr lebhaft" (Very lively). Consists of two trios in G minor in triple-time. In this Scherzo-like movement, the first trio is capricious and merry while the second builds to a powerful climax.
Another "Sehr langsam" movement follows. This movement, the essence of Kreisleriana, starts in with another sweet melody in B flat major but soon transforms into a spirited C minor and then back to the the B flat major section.
The most fiery of the set, "Sehr rasch" (Very Fast) comes next. In C minor, the movement heightens to a feverishly-pitched fugato until it finally resolves into a calm conclusion.
The set concludes with "Schnell und spielend" (Fast and playful). In the key of G minor, the right hand zips along with a sprightly melody while the left hand accompanies with slow octaves that are slightly out of time. The set comes to a slightly uncertain end with a slow, quiet descent into the lower reaches of the keyboard.
Like the dual personalities of Kreisler, Schumann's Kreisleriana also seems to alternate personalities. At times it is wild, eccentric and clever like Schumann described of Kreisler. However, it is equally tender, lyrical and romantic at other times.
See also: Robert Schumann's Symphonic Etudes
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