Robert Schumann: Piano Trio op. 63

At the beginning of 2016, the SLUB Dresden succeeded in acquiring the sketches for Robert Schumann's first Piano Trio op. 63, which had previously been in private hands, from an American antiquarian bookshop. This allows anyone interested to gain an insight into the genesis of one of the most popular chamber music works since its creation, which is also considered a key work in its genre.

Trio thoughts

The first "Trio Thoughts" came to Schumann on 3 June 1847 and, as the family household book informs us, after only seven days the first movement of what was to become Opus 63 - with over 200 bars - was finished in its basic form. Just another week passed and Schumann had sketched the entire composition once. Although he then initially returned to two older composition projects - making corrections to the Second Symphony and adding to the "Faust Scenes" - and then travelled to the Zwickau music festivals and devoted himself to an extended bathing cure at the Elbe baths, in September he resumed work on the Piano Trio and put the sketched thoughts together in a score. For the next few days, the housekeeping book bears witness to his concentrated preoccupation with the trio, the completion of which Schumann was finally able to record on 7 September.

Six days later he gave it to his wife Clara for her 28th birthday. That same evening, family friends, the Dresden concertmaster Franz Schubert and the cellist Friedrich August Kummer, who often played with Clara, performed the work together with Clara.

Touched and full of enthusiasm, the pianist noted:

"It sounds as if from someone from whom much is still to be expected, so youthful and powerful, yet so masterly in its execution! ... The first movement is for me one of the most beautiful I know.

Family album entry of 8 November 1834, which indicates the close musical connection between Schubert, Kummer and Schumann. SLUB Dresden Mus.Schu 142

Composing Joy

Schumann repeatedly connects the work on the Trio in his budget book with the feeling of "joy". Thus he speaks of "trio joys", states the progress of the work with the words "In the last movement of the trio - joy" and notes the completion with the remark "the trio finished - joy". Despite all the corrections, improvements, deletions, distortions, open passages that are visible in the sketches, the composer was probably in an almost euphoric flow of work.

Clara also accompanied Robert's creative process with much enthusiasm and anticipation. Thus her diary states:

"Robert is now very industrious, he is writing a piano trio ... I am glad that he is also thinking about the piano again for once. He himself seems very pleased with his composition."

Clara and Robert shared an interest in the genre of the piano trio. Together they were enthusiastic about corresponding works by Beethoven. For their seventh wedding anniversary, on 12 September 1846, Clara had given her husband her Piano Trio op. 17.








Clara Schumann: Piano Trio op. 17

Opus 63 is Robert's response in this musical conversation. Parallel to the elaboration of the first trio, he began to conceive another contribution to the genre, the Piano Trio op. 80, completed in 1849. In dialogue with his wife, Schumann thus explored the possibilities of the genre.

Sleeping Beauty

Schumann's sketches remained in the possession of his eldest daughter Marie until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1911,n they were offered for sale at C. G. Boerner in Leipzig and ended up in the Schumann collection of Alfred Wiede, the head burgrave and Schumann lover in Zwickau.

From there they were exhibited once again, at least on the occasion of the Schumann Festival in 1922, at which the work was also played. After that, however, they disappeared into a private safe.

Schumann and the Library

Now Schumann's sketches are returning to their place of origin and will be made accessible to all interested parties. At the SLUB Dresden, they complement a small but typical collection of autographs and manuscripts from Schumann's Dresden period. Thus, in addition to Schumann's correspondence and an extensive family album with loving entries by Schumann's guests, several compositions are kept here that deal primarily with the Lied and chamber music - Schumann's works that enriched Dresden's bourgeois musical life.


A connection to the library has existed since Schumann's Dresden years: As the entry in the registration book of the Royal Public Library shows, Schumann was not only a "user" himself, but also took his visitors - such as the Leipzig Kapellmeister Nils W. Gade - to the library. What the Schumanns and Gade were shown is not documented, but it can be assumed that they made music together when they returned home in the evening.

The conversation about music, both their own and that of others, was conducted continuously in this way: with words, with notes, with sounds. Schumann's Piano Trio op. 63 also continued to change during this dialogue. Again and again he corrected and changed until the trio was published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1848 and had its public premiere shortly afterwards. Since then, the Piano Trio in D minor has been a natural part of the chamber music repertoire and the musical discourse lives on through ever new interpretations. The fact that Schumann's first ideas on this groundbreaking work of the genre are now available to the generally curious music lover as well as to philological research or the practising musician will give it fresh impetus.