Schumann, Fantasie in C Major
Robert Schumann, Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17
Unable to sleep last night, and unable to stop thinking about Schumann's music, I got up at 3:00 a.m. and listened to the Fantasie in C Major.
I first became acquainted with this piece when I was eleven years old. I took a chance on a "grab bag" from a discount catalog—four classical LPs for five dollars. I saved lunch money to get the cash. On the order form, I was required to check my age bracket: I checked "adult," because I was certain that they would dumb down for an eleven year old, and I did not want silly music.
I remember the day the box of LPs arrived. I was excited to see what had come. One LP was of whaler songs from the 1800s—discordant, jaunty, glorifying the slaughter of an endangered species. I threw it away. One was organ music composed by Albert Schweitzer; the music was impenetrable, but I admired Schweitzer and his hospital in Africa, so I set aside the LP against a day when I might understand it. One LP was a recording of Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony, about which more on another day. The final LP was Schumann's Fantasie in C Major. As I listened to it, I knew, even as a boy, that in it I encountered greatness.
A masterful recording of the Fantasie is available on Wikipedia. I have looked into this, researching the information on these uploads, and apparently it is all done legally and with permission by the pianist him- or herself (if anyone has information different from this, please tell me, and I will remove the link). Either Nancy or Neal O'Doan is the pianist; no date for the performance or other information is given. You must look down the right side of the page, until you come to the Fantasie. This is what I listened to last night. The third movement is, in particular and to my mind, a powerful statement of hope in adversity:
And here is a link on Amazon.com to the great Alfred Brendel playing the Fantasie in C Major:
Listening to the Fantasie, I became emotional again. My cats gathered around me, concerned. I tried to reassure them as they tried to comfort me. I look at them and think: how could anyone throw them away—toss them out of a car like trash and drive off? I am glad to have saved them, but how many are there that no one saves; no one comes for them: they die abandoned, alone, afraid? Humanity has failed, I sometimes think—but today I heard Schumann again, and the experience has made me wonder if there aren't at least a few of us, Schumann among them, who deserve eternity.
I photographed "As a Watered Garden, no. 2," the flowers above, at Brigham Young's historic Beehive House in downtown Salt Lake City (April 2006). The title is from Jeremiah 31:12 (KJV): "and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all."