Sonata No. 1, Op. 105, 1st movement
In this masterclass, Mihaela Martin helps Ivos Margoni capture the right sound and expression in the first movement of Schumann’s first violin sonata. She encourages him to experiment with his sound so that it always projects and maintains energy in a piano dynamic, and does not feel pushed or too aggressive in a loud dynamic. Moreover, she discusses bow speed and stroke, and how varying these can find different colors and effects in the sound and the phrasing.
Martin stresses the importance of always being an active participant in the music. She helps the student identify arrival points in the piece and how he should control the pacing of dynamics leading up to them. She challenges him to always have a story or an emotion in mind that he would like to convey so that the audience is convinced of the performance.
Varying the sound according to the context of the music.
Maintaining liveliness in the sound even in a piano dynamic.
Pacing and storytelling.
Anticipating the emotion or feeling and achieving it through bow speed and stroke.
Making deliberate decisions about how to play the music.
Robert Schumann composed his first violin sonata in 1851, as his mental health was declining. Despite his struggles, this was a prolific time for the composer, who had expanded beyond his piano expertise to produce many symphonic, chamber, and instrumental works. However, he was displeased with the final result of the sonata, prompting him to write a second sonata. The piece was premiered publicly by Schumann’s wife, Clara, and concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Ferdinand David. The first movement, Mit leidenschaftlichem Ausdruck, was intended to be played “with passionate expression.”
Though the music briefly dips into C major, there is limited thematic contrast. The movement ebbs and flows in intensity toward several climactic points, and spends a lot of time in the violin’s lower register. Schumann blurs the usually clear distinction between development and recapitulation before a brief, virtuosic coda. The second movement is a charming and lyrical Allegretto. The calmness is briefly interrupted by more energetic episodes. The sonata ends with Lebhaft, a fast-paced movement characterized by pressing sixteenth-note passages. Schumann unifies the work through a short repetition of material from the first movement, before driving to a spirited conclusion.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Mihaela Martin’s feedback and comments.
Won second prize in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which was followed by further main prizes in Montreal, Sion and Brussels.
Romanian-born artist Mihaela Martin is known as one of the most outstanding violin virtuosos of her generation. She began taking lessons with her father when she was five years old. Later, she studied with Stefan Gheorghiu, a pupil of George Enescu and David Oistrakh. At nineteen, Mihaela Martin won the Second Prize in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, followed by other prominent prizes in Montreal, Sion, and Brussels. Subsequently, her international career was launched after receiving First Prize at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
She has performed with leading orchestras such as the BBC Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Furthermore, she has worked with conductors such as Kurt Masur, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Charles Dutoit, and Neeme Järvi. Together with Daniel Austrich, Nobuko Imai, and Frans Helmserson, she is a permanent member of the Michelangelo String Quartet, which she cofounded in 2003.
Mihaela Martin is a professor at the University of Music in Cologne and at the Haute Ecole de Musique in Geneva, and has taught at the Académie musicale de Villecroze. In addition, she teaches masterclasses all over the globe. She is a regular jury member at important international competitions, such as the Queen Elisabeth (Belgium), Indianapolis (USA), Enescu (Romania), and Tchaikovsky (Russia).
Born in Zwickau, Saxony (Germany) on June 8, 1810, Robert Schumann was a renowned Romantic composer still celebrated today mainly for his orchestral works and piano compositions. Many of his most famous piano compositions were dedicated to his wife and established pianist, Clara Schumann.
Unlike many composers before him, Schumann did not come from a musical family. Despite this, Robert began learning the piano at an early age at six-years-old. As a teenager, the young musician would become heavily influenced and inspired by Austrian composer Franz Schubert as well as the German poet, Jean Paul Richter. At seventeen, Robert Schumann began composing music that same year.
In 1828, Schumann studied for a few months with famed teacher, Friedrich Wieck — leading to the faithful meeting with Wieck’s daughter Clara. A year later, the young composer left Leipzig for Heidelberg where he composed several waltzes, which were later recycled in his works Papillons (Op. 2). He practiced the piano vigorously until he became a virtuoso pianist. He would return to study with Wieck in Leipzig.
The 1830s was a time for prolific writing and composing for Robert Schumann, where many of his piano pieces were published. They included Papillons, Carnaval, and Études symphonies. Around this period, Clara and Robert would eventually marry.
Robert Schumann would go on to write Davidsbündlertänze, Phantasiestücke, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, Arabeske, Novelletten as well as some chamber works — a departure from his usual compositions.
By the 1840s, Robert Schumann’s works lost the magic that they once had earlier in his life. He suffered from mental illness and would have periods of severe depression and anxiety. He lived the rest of his days near Bonn and died in 1856.