The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Robert Schumann Fest at UW-Madison in the fall is cancelled | May 27, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has heard some bad news, some sad news, to pass along.

There will be no University of Wisconsin-Madison festival to celebrate the 200th birthday, which is June 8, of arch-Romantic composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856, seen below in a photo from about 1850).

Word was that the UW School of Music would in the fall hold an event similar to the Chopin festival it held in March to mark the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth.

Those Chopin events included a faculty recital by Christopher Taylor; master classes for high school students; an amateur pianist community play-in; and a performance the complete mazurkas (below) played by UW undergraduate and graduate piano students. It all took place in one day in Old Music Hall.

Well, apparently so much effort and planning went into it that a repeat is just not possible or feasible for the fall.

It seems one central figure will be on sabbatical and the rest of the faculty will be too busy teaching and performing to pull such an event together. Perhaps finances also figure into it.

That’s too bad.

You could argue – and argue easily– that Schumann is a far more important composer from the historical and musicological points of view than Chopin.

Moreover, there is so much music by Schumann that one just doesn’t get to hear performed live — or even on recordings or the radio.

That leaves one hoping that at least the big birthday will be marked informally through students and faculty recitals and performances, through other performances by other groups.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below), for example, is doing Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Christopher Taylor and the Symphony No. 3  “Rhenish” — though the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra doesn’t seem like it will include works by Schumann in its indoors Masterworks concert next season.)

In addition, during its three weekends of concerts  in June, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (below) will perform  more than its fair share of Schumann, including: the Violin Sonatas in D minor and A Minor, Opp. 121 and 105, respectively; the Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 63; and the glorious Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 44.

For details about time, place, tickets and programs for the BDDS, visit:

Maybe the Pro Arte String Quartet will throw in one of the three string quartets, or, with a soloist, the beautiful Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major.

Maybe one of the UW student orchestral groups will do another symphony, or at least some overture.

And maybe some of the voice faculty will do more (soprano Mimmi Fulmer has already performed the “Frauenliebe und leben” cycle. What about “Dichterliebe” or “Liederkreis”?)

Maybe another piano trio? The cello concerto or some cello and piano works?

And of course Schumann wrote so many wonderful solo piano works.

What Schumann works would you most like to hear during the Schumann Year?

What works are least heard and should be perform in the anniversary year?

Is there any push to have an informal Schumann Fest organized by the community, maybe some play-in at a non-UW venue like the First Unitarian Society, Edgewood College or the Capitol Lakes Retirement Center?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. As far as least heard — I would say MOST of Schumann’s major solo piano works fall into that category. I would personally vote for the Noveletten and Kreisleriana — even the great Fantasy in C, although that’s somewhat on the “radar screen.” The “Bluemenstuecke” (Flower Pieces) are very charming, as is the Romance in F# Major. I can’t speak to his sonatas, because I’m not familiar enough with them — but the works above, that I AM familiar with, certainly deserve more exposure than they get.

    Comment by Tim Adrianson — May 27, 2010 @ 9:00 am

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for reading and then writing a comment so thoughtful and informative.
      I think you are right on the money with the Novellettes, the Romance (and its two companions) the “Blumenstueck” (a favorite of Horowitz)
      I find the great “Fantasy” (composed to honor Beethoven) and the “Kreisleriana” are pretty well represented on recordings, as are the early “Fantasy Pieces,” “Carnaval,” the “Kinderszenen” or “Scenes of Childhood,” the “Arabesque,” the “Symphonic Etudes,” the “Davidsbundlertanze” and even the Sonatas.
      But I hope that performing artists and Wisconsin Public Radio program some of the other more obscure works, especially the very early and the very late works, which have been overlooked and marginalized by being placed in the shadow of Schumann’s mental illness.
      Those works include, to my mind at least, the “Abegg” Variatons, the “Bunteblaetter,” the “Papillons” (Butterflies), the Impromptus on a Theme of Clara Wieck (his wife), the “Humoresque,” the “Faschingsswank aus Wien (Carnival Jest from Vienna), the “Waldszenen” or Forest Scenes, and the “Nachtsteucke” or Night Pieces.
      I’m sure there are many more works, especially for other instruments.
      I hope we hear from more readers and performers, both professional and amateur.
      Thanks again,

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 27, 2010 @ 9:27 am

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