1842 was an astonishing year in the life of Robert Schumann. Newly married to Clara Wieck and with a newborn first child, Schumann was, at 32 years old, at the pinnacle of his creative prowess. He fearlessly threw himself into the creation of some of our most treasured pieces of chamber music including the Piano Quintet in E-flat, Op. 44 and his three String Quartets, Op. 41. And this just 15 years after the death of Beethoven!
His first foray into the string quartet is his Quartet in A minor, Op. 41 No. 1. His mastery of the genre is on full display with his signature fantasy and lyricism paired with a remarkable understanding of voice leading and counter point. Every player has vital contributions and individual solos abound. How could this be his very first quartet? The work as a whole has a beautiful arch from the quiet contemplation of A minor to the heartfelt warmth of the F major slow movement to the unbridled exuberance of the A Major ending!
One can only imagine the level of inspiration and, indeed, obsession that enabled Schumann in this creative volcano of 1842. These are the very qualities that we aspire to at the Manhattan String Quartet conferences and we salute our participants for their devotion, preparation and, yes, obsession!