Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann, the youngest of three sons of Ludwig Hoffmann and Luise Albertine Doerffer, was born January 24, 1776, in KÃ¶nigsberg East Prussia (now Kalinigrad, Russia). Years later, to express his admiration of Mozart he adopted E. T. A. Hoffmann as his pen name, the â€œAâ€ standing for â€œAmadeus.â€
The divorce of his parents in 1778, made it necessary for the boy and his mother to return to the Doerffer family household. Here began Hoffmannâ€™s first association with music receiving instruction in piano, organ and music theory from a local organist. Relatives and friends gathered at his home with their instruments and attacked the music of the time with more enthusiasm than sensitivity. We have references to these events in his story Der Musikfeind where he describes a person being driven away in horror by such events.
At the age of eleven, Hoffmann met Theodor Gottlieb Hippel, nephew of the prominent author of the same name and the correspondence generated by their lifelong friendship provides us with much of the most useful information concerning Hoffmannâ€™s thoughts, activities and feelings.
In 1792, Hoffmann entered the University of KÃ¶nigsberg to follow the family tradition and study law; his real desire, however, was to study music. Two years later, during the probationary term of his legal studies, Hoffmann began the study of painting and made himself available as a piano teacher. It is in his role as teacher that he met Dora Hatt, nicknamed 'Cora', with whom he fell in love, although she was already married. Their unhappy love affair prompted Hoffmann to distract himself by writing feverishly, thus beginning what was to become a fruitful career as a writer. During this period he also wrote some music for Goetheâ€™s Faust.
In spite of his avowed hatred of academic life, Hoffmann did very well in his studies, graduated with honors, and obtained a post in Posen in 1797. While there, Hoffmann found not only time to compose but also audiences for his music, including a cantata for New Yearâ€™s Eve 1800, and some quite successful music for Goetheâ€™s Scherz, List und Rache .
Hoffmann was an avid caricaturist and his style soon became well known in the region; not surprisingly, after the circulation of several unflattering cartoons depicting high-level officials at a ball in 1802, he was transferred to the small border town of Plock.
After a preliminary journey to Plock in search of suitable living quarters, Hoffmann returned to Posen and on July26,1802, married Michalina Rohrer, an attractive Polish girl with no particular artistic inclinations who remained faithful to him throughout his very turbulent and often impoverished career. The absence of social life provided him the time to pursue his musical interests and stimulated by the music in the cloister churches in Plock, he began to compose masses for performance even though the singers â€œshrieked like owlsâ€ as he was fond of saying
In 1803, the ZÃ¼rich music publisher NÃ¤geli placed an advertisement in the FreimÃ¼thiger Zeitung offering a prize for a piano composition. Hoffmann presented a Grosse Phantasie fÃ¼r das Klavier under the name Giuseppi Dori aus Warschau. The submission was not accepted and he was roundly criticized. He accepted the rejection and responded by submitting a sonata in order to prove that he understood the censure to be right and that he was not offended by it.
Around this time Hoffmann wrote an essay about the use of the classical chorus in a drama, making specific reference to Schillerâ€™s Die Braut von Messina. This essay published with the help of his friend Hippel, became his first printed work. At the same time, life in Plock became too stultifying. As a result he sought and obtained a transfer to Warsaw.
The Hoffmanns arrived in Warsaw, then capital of the province of South Prussia, in March 1804. A city of colorful extremes, it suited their taste. Hoffmann described the city as a noisy, busy and quite cosmopolitan. Through his new friend Zacharias Werner, a dramatist whose mother had been a friend of Hoffmannâ€™s mother, and Julius Edward Hitting, Hoffmann became acquainted with the writings of German Romantic authors. Hitting, who later became his biographer, had just come from Berlin, where he had been an intimate of the Schlegel circle.
The following year, with the assistance of some young aristocrats, Hoffmann became one of the founders and artistic director of the Musical Society of Warsaw. There was enough income from his musical activities, to permit him to give up his official government position. Hoffmann found himself conducting performances of Mozart and Gluck in addition to composing a considerable quantity of music of his own. Performances of his setting of Brentanoâ€™s Die Lustigen Musikanten as well as the Mass in D minor took place that year. The Symphony in Eb, a Piano Quintet in D (now lost), and a Quintet for Harp and Strings date from this period, He also became a father of a daughter named Cecilia.
When Zacharias Werner commissioned him to write incidental music for his play, Das Kreuz an der Ostsee, Hoffmann had great hopes that his assignment would provide him entry into the Berlin National Theater. Nothing came of this as Wernerâ€™s play was summarily rejected.
After the battle of Jena, Napoleonâ€™s forces occupied Berlin, and on November 28,1806 they entered Warsaw. Unwilling to swear allegiance to Napoleon, Hoffmann sent his wife and daughter to Posen, and he returned to Berlin.
The year spent in Berlin proved to be a bleak one indeed. His daughter died, his wife became seriously ill, and no possibilities for employment presented themselves. After searching in vain for employment, Hoffmann put an advertisement in the Allgemeine Reichsanzeiger offering his services as a theater music director. After a long wait for offers, he received and accepted the appointment of musical director of the theater at Bamberg.
Hoffmannâ€™s duties in his new position included conducting, which he did from the keyboard, unlike his predecessor, a first violinist, who had cued the orchestra from his chair but the orchestra disapproved of this arrangement. For his part, Hoffmann described the bassoons as â€œcombsâ€ and the theater director as â€œan ignorant, conceited windbagâ€. He abandoned this duty within two months of assuming the post, but not the writing of incidental music for the production of Heinrich von Kleistâ€™s play, Das KÃ¤thchen von Heilbronn. It then became necessary to supplement his income by giving piano lessons. Hoffmann found many students, most of them disappointingly untalented. He described this situation with biting humor in his Gedanken Ã¼ber den hoher Wert der MÃ¼sik Around this time, Hoffmann began substituting Amadeus for Wilhem in his name.
In yet another attempt to generate additional income, Hoffmann offered his services as a music critic to the editor of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung , the most prestigious music periodical of the time. Once hired, Hoffmann began to produce a stream of reviews and fiction on musical themes. His first tale, Ritter Gluck appeared in 1809, as well as parts of what later became his Kreisleriana. All in all, he contributed about one hundred articles and reviews to the journal during his Bamberg years.
In the fall of 1810, Hoffmannâ€™s friend Franz von Holbein took over the direction of the Bamberg theater and hired him to serve as in the composer, stage painter and set designer. His review of Beethovenâ€™s Fifth Symphony, the most important of his critical essays, appeared in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung at about that time.
The next two years proved to be prosperous ones for Hoffmann. However, he fell hopelessly in love with his adolescent student Julia Marc, who remained indifferent to him. During this period he composed two operas, incidental music for stage plays, a ballet, a Miserere, marches chorales, songs, a piano sonata and trio, twelve canzonets and six Italian duets. When Holbein gave up the direction of the Bamberg theater, Hoffmann was once again unemployed. Another blow came when Julia Marc married and moved to Hamburg. A move became necessary, this time to Dresden, where Hoffmann found a position as music director for Joseph Secondaâ€™s opera troupe.
The arrival of Napoleonâ€™s army disrupted Hoffmannâ€™s life a second time. Constant battles in the streets forced the opera troupe to relocate to Leipzig and during the next several months he moved back and forth between the two cities, as the war dictated. This period, although hectic, proved to be a productive one. Hoffmann completed Der goldene Topf, Die Automate, Der Magnetiseur, Der Dichter und der Komponist, and volumes one and two of FantasiestÃ¼cke in Callots Manier.
Musical composition received less attention. After completing Undine Hoffmann composed only a few incidental works and a symphony, released under a pseudonym, that commemorated the battle of Dresden.
In September 1814, Hoffmann secured a post in the Kammergericht in Berlin.
Already known as a man of letters, he took his place in Berlinâ€™s literary circles which included such writers as Tieck, FouquÃ©, Franz Horn, Chamisso and, later, Clemens Brentano, all representatives of the last phase of the Romantic movement. He continued to be active musically and his opera Undine was performed on the birthday of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III in August 1816. It was played fourteen times and received a laudatory and perceptive review from Carl Maria von Weber. Undine was on its way to becoming the first German Romantic opera when a fire in July, 1827 destroyed the music.
Costumes, scenery, and the imaginative special effects machine, much of which had been designed by Hoffmann himself, went up in flames. The enormous expense of the materials prevented the revival of the work. It is interesting to note that Weber incorporated many of Hoffmannâ€™s romantic gestures in his opera Der FreischÃ¼tz, which, when performed in the restored theater four years later, received the historical accolades that belonged, by right, to Hoffmannâ€™s work.
By the time of Undineâ€™s premiere, Hoffmann had been reinstated as a salaried official of the judiciary with the rank of councilor. This return to official duties provided the financial security he needed, and his rank lent him some social prominence and respect. His literary celebrity resulted in invitations to â€œaestheticâ€ teas hosted by the upper levels of Berlin society. The demand for childrenâ€™s stories fueled by the Grimmâ€™s collection, helped the popularity of Hoffmannâ€™s Nutcracker story that later inspired Tchaikovsky.
The vogue of historical novels like those of FouquÃ© and Walter Scott inspired Hoffmannâ€™s best known tales, Das FrÃ¤ulein von Scuderi, published in 1818. This work is considered to be an important forerunner of the detective story.
In 1819, as a result of his position at the Kammergericht, Hoffmann was appointed to a commission to investigate what he called â€œdemagogic activitiesâ€. The commission was prompted by the assassination of the playwright Kotzebue by a student activist. Hoffmann proved to be a strong jurist and was instrumental in the release of a leading figure of the â€œdemagoguesâ€ who wanted to rid themselves of French influence and was a hero to the German nationalists. These experiences honed Hoffmannâ€™s satiric gifts. Let us not forget that throughout this time he continued his activities as a caricaturist by illustrating his own stories. His depiction of Johannes Kreisler and his milieu constitutes a fascinating study of musical performance and its reception of the time. He decorated the walls of his home with humorous and grotesque fantasies of cavorting figures.
From 1820 to the day of his untimely death on June25,1822, Hoffmann was besieged by requests for pocket diaries and almanacs and was extremely well paid for them. His literary projects, such as the second part of Kater Murr, and the writing of opera, which was to have been his greatest musical work, were pushed into the background and never became a reality.
Throughout his life, E. T. A. Hoffmann seemed driven by a sense of longing. The object of this longing was not always precise, apart from a desire to leave behind the burdens of everyday life. Music seemed to set in motion the most lasting fulfillment of this desire. Hoffman always considered music the highest, most â€œromanticâ€ form of art. Yet while he gained recognition for his writings, success as a composer often eluded him.
Even among his contemporaries, Hoffmann was known predominantly as an author of literary works and as an important figure in the aesthetics and theory of music. Far less known is his extensive musical output. The author Hoffmann continues to cast a bigger shadow. Shortly after the turn of the twentieth-century, when Hoffmannâ€™s musical work began to arouse interest, scholars expected to find among them the same bizarre humor that distinguish his literary works. But in addition to admiration for and acknowledgment of the musicâ€™s technical qualities, there was also disappointment, in particular with his piano sonatas, which seem at first glance to reflect Hoffmannâ€™s traditional musical background and his study of contemporary models. They are, as Hoffmann himself concedes, indebted to the â€œold styleâ€.
Critics of Hoffmannâ€™s music seem to think that his aesthetic perceptions were greater than the compositions he produced. He consciously drew inspiration from composers he admired without ever reaching their level. But what his contemporaries did not realize and what makes Hoffmann as important in the field of music as he was in the field of literature is his unique position as a pivotal point between classicism and romanticism. For, while his earlier surviving works look back to the style of Mozart and Gluck, his opera Undine points the way to the German romantic opera. With this opera Hoffmannâ€™s career as a composer reached both its climax and came to a close. The operaâ€™s death in flames, when the Royal Theater in Berlin burned down, also ended Hoffmannâ€™s musical output. The rest of his life was devoted to literature.
We have learned to make less prejudiced judgments of the music of the early nineteenth century. As a result the time has come to give Hoffmann the composer his proper due. I ask: Did Hoffmann, by using the compositional techniques of his predecessors, techniques to which he attributed metaphysical qualities in the Romantic world view, expose himself to the danger that not everyone would perceive what he himself perceived in them?
Hoffmannâ€™s musical output was quite varied, it includes:
Works for the Stage: Some fifty-four works are known to exist, most of them lost; of the six surviving operas, Undine is considered by some scholarsto be the first romantic opera.
Sacred Music: Several Masses, Motets, Canzoni, Hymns and a Miserere.
Secular Music: Cantatas, Canzonettes, Canzoni, Duets, Choral works, Lieder.
Orchestral and Chamber Works: Overture, Musica per la Chiesa, a Symphony,
Piano Quintet, Quintet for Harp and Strings, and a Piano Trio.
Solo Piano Works: Several Rondos, Fantasia in C, Waltzes, and eight Sonatas of which all but five are lost
The five extant Piano Sonatas, presented here date from 1802 to 1808.
Sonata in A Major (Allroggen-Verz, 22), the first of only four sonatas published in Hoffmannâ€™s lifetime by Joseph Elsner in 1805.
Composed during happy circumstances, and with a great instrument at his disposal, Hoffmann modeled this sonata after Mozartâ€™s sonata KV 282 in Bb Major, a very popular work at that time, and much loved by him. The arrangement of the movements surely derives from this work:
Mozart: Adagio. Menuetto I. Menuetto II. Allegro
Hoffmann: Andante. Menuetto I. Menuetto II. Allegro assai
However, this parallel constitutes only a formal stimulus, for the actual work has an identity of its own. The fact that Hoffmann enjoyed the use of a piano for the composition of this work is evident. The sonata flows naturally in a more â€œpianisticâ€ way than the other sonatas. This is a homophonic, charming, youthful work with no effort being made to indulge in contrapuntal complexity. There is something very â€œchild-likeâ€ about this sonata.
Closer examination reveals however some interesting and unique features.
The typical four measureâ€™s opening phrase is in effect five measures long. Also note the placement of the dynamic markings; they are in direct contradiction of the direct and otherwise uncomplicated arpeggios that constitute the theme. The overall gestural characteristic throughout the movement is reminiscent of Mozartâ€™s K 282.
At the center of this sonata, we find two Minuettos. Minuetto I, in D Major, essentially follows the sonata form minuet.
The simple theme has some interesting features. For example, the figure leading to the cadence in the dominant is the same as the opening gesture of the sonata.
The D minor second minuet produces a bold beginning with its Neapolitan beginning and its skillful modulation to the dominant via a modified six-five chord.
The last movement marked Allegro assai is the longest and technically more adventurous (in terms of â€œpianisticâ€ skill) of the sonata.
The organic unity of this sonata is very interesting to me because it reveals how Hoffmann, utilizing conventional methods of composition is exploring new ways to present his material, his spinning of simple material not so much into complicated structures, but into ingenious tight fragments all cleverly related to each other.
The Sonata in F minor (Allroggen-Verz, 27), most likely written during Hoffmannâ€™s Warsaw period (1805-07).
The manuscript of this sonata, found in Hoffmannâ€™s estate, was given to the KÃ¶nigliche Nationalbibliothek in Berlin in 1846 together with a considerable number of other compositions. It consists of four connected movements:
Adagio e con gravitÃ - Allegro - Larghetto - Allegro.
Hoffmann described this sonata as consisting mostly of an introduction in slow tempo followed by a contrapuntally elaborated allegro. True to this description the sonata begins with a prelude, followed by two carefully crafted contrapuntal movements on either side of a slow, sensitive middle movement. This four-part scheme shows stylistic similarities to the works of C. Ph. E. Bach, with which Hoffmann was familiar early in his life. The technique of counterpoint not only follows the pattern laid down by the schoolmasterly publisher NÃ¤geli, but also corresponds to Hoffmannâ€™s musical education and background.
The sonata opens with what at first glance is a typical four- measure phrase which however splits so that only the first half of this phrase is picked up by the right hand. Note that he dolce passage stands in contrast to the contrapuntal section and is texturally different than the opening in that only the right hand continues the sequence, over the Alberti accompaniment of the left hand.
The final Allegro shows just how much Hoffmann was looking to the structural elements and specific motifs of Mozartâ€™s OrgelstÃ¼ck fÃ¼r eine Uhr (K. 608). In 1799, Mollo published an arrangement of this work for piano duet, and Hoffmann was familiar with.
The movement begins with the characteristic run of notes in this case in C minor. A fugue subject enters at the second half of the first beat at measure 18. This entrance presents an interesting aural and performing problem: it makes this note sound and feel like a down beat. Hoffmann has effectively created rhythmic ambiguity.
From now to the final cadence in the home key, the two subjects are mingled, interrupted, and treated in a manner that brings to mind a passage from Hoffmannâ€™s Kreisleriana, called â€œKapellmeister Johannes Kreislerâ€™s Musical Sufferingsâ€: â€œthe quarto pages suddenly expand to an elephant-folio containing a thousand imitations and elaborations of the theme. The notes come to life and flutter and dance around me: electric sparks flow through my fingertips into the keys; the spirit generating them overtakes my thoughts.â€
The Sonata in F Major (Allroggen-Verz, 29), belongs to the Warsaw period too
(1805-07). It consists of three movements marked:
Allegro maestoso,( Prelude and Fugue). Andante un poco adagio. Allegro
In this sonata, a dramatic opening prelude is followed by a fugue in which every possible motivic elaboration is explored. It is written in a most elaborate manner, and although I have enjoyed performing this sonata, I found it to be the least spontaneous of Hoffmannâ€™s works. The opening movement ends with a unique compression of motifs leading into a gentle middle movement. The closing allegro unifies the work by recalling the opening prelude and fugue.
The return to the tempo primo as a finale movement where all the elements previously utilized, is significant in that one can perhaps infer Hoffmannâ€™s attempt at a total unity of a music work, He seems to be wrestling with the â€œsonata problemâ€ at the same time as Beethoven, without however being able to solve it.
The Sonata in F minor (Allroggen-Verz. 30), written at the same time as the previous F minor sonata (1807-08), consists of three movements:
Largo e maestoso-Allegro moderato. Melodia. Allegro molto.
Hoffmannâ€™s second such work in F minor, differs from the first sonata in that key, and from the F Major sonata in its greater length, higher pianistic level and forming of independent, self-contained movements.
The brief introduction, marked Largo e maestoso, recalls Mozartâ€™s Fantasia, K.608 also in F minor. This introduction leads into a sober four-voice fugue with a double fugue in the development section.
The original fugue subject is combined with the new theme forming what has been considered by some musicologists to be a magnificent â€œtour de forceâ€ of contrapuntal writing.
The central movement of this sonata, marked Melodia is a theme and variations movement, achieved by alternating the lyrical F major theme and the energetic storming of a mini-canon in F minor.
It is evident that Hoffmann is his best in this type of composition. One can feel the conflict between free improvisation, the letting go of the imagination, and the strict rules of composition. This conflict is, of course, what Hoffmann and the romantic aesthetic is all about.
The concluding movement is a kind of rondo with fugal couplets. Hoffmann rounds off the sonata by citing the introduction at the end of the movement
The Sonata in C# minor (Allroggen-Verz, 40) the last of Hoffmannâ€™s sonatas, is in my opinion also the most important of such work.
Probably composed in Bamberg in1808, this sonata, with its grand prelude and especially in the brief, almost threatening scherzo, reflects Hoffmannâ€™s interest in Beethovenâ€™s scherzo, specifically the scherzo of the sonata Op. 27,no. 2. It is in this work that Hoffmann developed his own style. He seems at last to express himself without constrain. Striking and characteristic, especially in the last movement, are the ways in which intense passages are abruptly interrupted, broken off and dreamlike changes take over, contrasting emotions in new variations, all of which are. achieved with apparent effortlessness.
The movements are marked:
Largo. Allegro moderato. Scherzo. Allegro.
The Scherzo that replaces the usual slow movement recalls the second movements of Beethoven sonatas op. 10 no. 2, and op.14 no. 1.
The compositional design has become freer, of greater virtuosity than the previous sonatas. His harmonic devices produce significant variety.
Hoffmann sonatas are not easy listening for those familiar with Beethoven and the piano music of the nineteenth century, for although somewhat difficult in a technical sense, they lack pianistic bravura. Hoffmann moves away from triumphal gestures or from savoring any climax after intensification.
This sonata, in my opinion, contains within it the seeds to what was to develop as â€œprogrammaticâ€ material. Historic possibility marks this work.
When Hoffmannâ€™s fictional character Johannes Kreisler performed the Goldberg Variations at tea parties, Bach was still largely a mystery, for although many of his keyboard works were available, no one really had a true sense of his greatness. It is indeed a credit to Hoffmann that he did sense it. It is also apparent that although he was clearly excited enough about Bachâ€™s music to write about it quite frequently, he did not clearly â€œunderstandâ€ it in any true sense of the word. In Kreisleriana and through Kreisler, Hoffmann considers Bach to represent in music what Sanskrit is to language.
I believe that it is precisely the Sanskrit quality of Bachâ€™s music that Hoffmann finds so fascinating. He supports Bach blindly. It is important for Hoffmann to have someone to hold slightly out of focus so as to confuse the myopic â€œphilistineâ€.
All five sonatas contain fugal elements in them, in fact, together with the use of variation devices, they could be said to be Hoffmannâ€™s signature device.
Robert Schumann (1810- 1856)
"Und immer werden Sie," erwiderte die Benzon, "mit dieser fantastischen
Uberspanntheit, mit dieser herzzerschneidenden Ironie, nichts anstiften als Unruhe-Verwirrung-
vÃ¶llige Dissonanz aller konventionellen VerhÃ¤ltnisse wie sie nun einmal bestehen." O wundervoller Kapellmeister," rief Johannes Kreisler lachend, "der solcher Dissonanzen mÃ¤chtig!"
A recurrent figure in Hoffmannâ€™s works is the half-mad Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler, who represents at once the Romantic musician's sensibility and Hoffmann himself. According to Hoffmann: â€œ Who is he? Nobody knows! Who were his parents? That too is unknown! Johannes was drawn constantly to and fro by his inner visions and dreams as if floating on an eternally undulating sea, searching in vain for the haven which would grant him the peace and serenity needed for his work. Thus it was that even his friends couldn't bring him to finish a composition or to prevent him from destroying what he had writtenâ€.
Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler, the fictional alter ego of E.T.A. Hoffman was both a symptomatic figure of his time and a model for Romantic composers. In his Kreisler writings Hoffmann expressed his aesthetic beliefs and his own experiences as a professional musician, and soon Kreisleriana and Kater Murr overshadowed his own musical compositions, including his most successful work, Undine.
Kreisler struck a chord in many musicians who, although from different musical tastes and backgrounds, identified with him or his "musical sorrows". Young Richard Wagner identified with Kreisler and sought musical instruction from Hoffmann's FantasiestÃ¼cke. Brahms, as a young man signed his letters and compositions "Johannes Kriesler, jun." Mahler's title "ein Totenmarsch in Callot Manner" for the third movement of his First Symphony refers to Hoffmann's Fantasiestucke in Callots Manier, the collection containing Kreisleriana.
In his book Robert Schumann Herald of a "New Poetic Age", John Daverio describes how Robert Schumann found in the writings of Hoffmann the outlet for his imaginative impulses. A series of curt diary entries of June 5-6, 1831, speak to the degree to which Schumann gave himself over to the author's mesmerizing spell: "Read that accursed E.T.A. Hoffmann in the evening â€¦. one hardly dares to breathe while reading Hoffman â€¦. New worlds."
At first horrified, then stunned, and finally enthralled by the writer's weird blend of reality and fantasy, Schumann responded to Hoffmann much as he had reacted several years before to Jean Paul. He was even composing a â€œpoetic biographyâ€ of him. There is no doubt that reading Hoffmann was both a gratifying and disturbing experience for Schumann, for I believe he saw a mirror of himself. He saw in Hoffmann and in Kreisler in particular a universe in which an ordinary reality can suddenly turn into a terrifying fantasy world.
Schumann composed Kreisleriana during the spring of 1838, during his forced separation from Clara Wieck.
In addition to personal identification, there are formal similarities. Many of the structural principles of Kreisleriana and Kater Murr govern Schumann's Kreisleriana as well. In the full title of Hoffmannâ€™s work, Lebensansichten des Katers Murr nebst fragmentarischer Biographie des Kapellmeisters Johannes Kreisler in zufÃ¤lligen MakulaturblÃ¤ttern, Hoffmann presents two conflicting manuscripts depicting the autobiographies of Murr the cat and of Kreisler, the torn pieces of the latter having been used for â€œ backing and blottingâ€ by Murr and resulting in a series of fragments.
This is a wonderful narrative with a peculiar rhythm accented by Hoffmann beginning many of Kreisler utterances in mid sentence.
For Schumann this narrative ploy becomes a means of creating in the words of Daverio, â€a sonic illusionâ€. Note the very beginning of the piece sounds and feels like it has already began!
The most immediate and obvious similarity is in the extreme contrasts that dominate the cycle. Fast passionate movements, 1 (Agitatissimo), 3 (molto Agitato), 5 (Vivace assai), 7 ( molto Presto) and 8 (Vivace e scherzando), alternate with slow, dreamy ones, 2 (con molta espressione, nontroppo presto), 4 (Lento assai), and 6 (Lento assai). Every title except the last is strengthened by "very" or "extremely". The effect is increased by the absence of transitions or rests between movements or contrasting sections. A driving rhythm in the fast movements is kept up to the very end.
As previously observed, the very first note of the first movement seems to come in the middle of the piece. The pick-up does not have a strong upbeat character because the downbeat is obscured by the syncopated bass. The movement ends as abruptly as it began with the same skyrocketing gesture and persistent rhythm.
The most subtle examples of what I learned to call the â€œKater Murr syndromeâ€ are in movements 5 and 7 of Kreisleriana, For example the beginning and the end of the seventh movement is as abrupt as its end. The final return of the first theme, (m.81) closes with high dynamics and fast tempo. The authentic cadence in C minor (m.88) seems to indicate the movement's end; but without a moment's respite, a slower coda follows, first in Bb, and ultimately in Eb Major. We find ourselves in a different musical world, even though the basic rhythm is taken over into the coda.
Similar disjunction occurs between virtually all movements. For example, in movement three there is no final chord, just the continuation of divergent lines that simply stop.
The ruptures and unexpected contrast between sections and movements that are themselves not fully self-contained have clear analogues in the motley collection of Hoffmann's Kreisleriana and the unrelated Kreisler and Murr sections in Kater Murr. Schumann's tendency to begin in the middle of things recalls the first Kreisler episode in Katter Murr, which also begins in the middle of a sentence. Perhaps more than in other cycles the Kreisleriana reveal Schumann's pleasure in playing with forms. Analogous to Hoffmann's Kreisleriana and Kater Murr, which refuse to tell their stories in linear progression, Schumann's forms are unpredictable, full of immediate juxtapositions and inconclusive endings that lend a sense of arbitrariness and fragmentation. The formal complexity, play with harmonies rhythms and textures and frequently difficult polyphonic passages do not make for easy listening. Indeed Schumann commented that in Kreisleriana, "There is much to think about". Just as in Kater Murr the seeming disorder is in reality highly structured, so too Schumann's work is musically unified. A unity stems from the fact that dark, stormy movements in G minor alternate almost regularly with slow ones in Bb Major there are also ties between the sixteenth-note motifs in movements one, three and five .Also the opening of movements three and eight are related by the pedal point on G, the movement of the bass, and the melodic outline.
The listener is called upon to discover the underlying unity in the seemingly discontinuity of the piece. The very discontinuity, I find, unifies the work through "mutual contrast." Kreisleriana has to be performed as a whole.
In Kater Murr, important parts are missing, and the writer makes sure that the reader really misses them. He leads right up to an important revelation, he even starts an important sentence and simply stops, only to continue with something completely unrelated.
Deliberate mystification and withholding resolution play a large role in Schumann's Kreisleriana as well.
(please indent!)These unresolved contradictions are in evidence in the last movement: the music seems perpetually at odds with itself. Take for instance the relationship between treble and bass. Both rhythm and phrase structure in the right hand are absolutely regular, but the bass's rhythms are increasingly independent and are soon contrary to all harmonic-rhythmic expectations. This independence is emphasized by Schumann's indication: "Die BÃ¤sse durchaus leicht und frei". The harmonic roots are moved to an off-beat and are delayed, anticipated and even completely withheld. The two contrasting middle sections are interposing with no transition or a rest, but the tempo does not slow down or is the galloping rhythm abandoned even for a single beat. The music fades away and disappears in the lowest range, leaving the impression that it Kreisler represented not just a kindred soul with whom Schumann could identify; he represented an entire aesthetic world-view that Schumann shared with Hoffman.
Formal closure and self-sufficiency are contrary to both Hoffmann's and Schumann's Kreisleriana. Both, through their fragmentary character, the essays, the novel and the piano cycle all invite us once more to lift the curtain, and to turn to the last page once again.
The emotional content of this work is overwhelming. Indeed Schumannâ€™s creative powers and his skillful integration of Hoffmanâ€™s literary method into the music structures are not only sophisticated but an incredibly fulfilling experience as well.
Schumann was fond of this work, after all he told Clara in a letter dated August 3,1838 that there was wild love in some of the movements. â€œ.. Meine Kreisleriana spiele manchmal! Eine recht ordentlich wilde Liebe liegt darin in einigen Satzen,..â€.
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1. E.T.A. Hoffmann Sonata No. 1, A major. Andante
2. Minuetto I - Minuetto II
3. Allegro assai
4. Sonata No.2, f minor. Adagio e con gravita. Largetto. Allegro
5. Sonata no 3, F major. Allegro maestoso
6. Andante un poco Adagio
7. Sonata No. 4, f minor. Largo e maestoso
9. Allegro molto
10. Sonata No. 5, c# minor. Largo Allegro moderato
13. Robert Schumann: Kreisleriana op.16. AuÃŸerst bewegt
14. Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch
15. Sehr aufgeregt
16. Sehr langsam
17. Sehr lebhaft
18. Sehr rasch
19. Snell und spielend