“Fleeting” #14: III. Langsam getragen (ursprüngliche Fassung), Fantasie in C Major, op. 17

Welcome back to my site. This post is about the last piece that concludes the program: the third movement of Fantasie in C Major, op. 17, composed by Robert Schumann. If you are interested in reading more about the composer, please visit “Fleeting” #7: Des Abends. (If you would like to look at the entire program, please visit here.)

Robert Schumann, III. Langsam getragen (ursprüngliche Fassung), Fantasie in C Major, op. 17 (1836)

Fantasie in C Major, op. 17, which is considered to be one of the greatest piano works composed by Schumann, is dedicated to Franz Liszt, and is headed by Friedrich Schlegel’s following poem: 

Durch alle Töne tönet                                       Through all the notes
Im bunten Erdentraum                                     In earth’s many-coloured dream
Ein leiser Ton gezogen                                      There sounds one soft long-drawn note
Für den, der heimlich lauschet                       For the one who listens in secret.[1]

In order to understand the backdrop to the dedicatee and motto, we must walk through its complex compositional history. Although a “call to Beethoven’s admirers” announced by the “Bonner Verein für Beethovens Monument” (Bonn Society for Beethoven’s Monument) on December 17, 1835, is sometimes mentioned as the event that initiated the composition of Fantasie in C Majorop. 17, according to Robert Schumann’s letter to Clara, it seems more accurate to say that a “deep lament” for Clara due to their separation enforced by Clara’s father’s opposition to their marriage first resulted in a single-movement work titled Ruines (Ruins) in 1936.[2]

The “call to Beethoven’s admirers” was an effort to raise funds to build a monument to Beethoven in Bonn, Germany, an initiative in which Franz Liszt (1811-1886) and other composers were involved. Inspired by this “call”, Schumann added the second and third movements to Ruines, and proposed to publish the three movements as Ruinen, Trophaeen, Palmen. Grosse Sonate f.d. Pianof. für Beethovens Denkmal (Ruins, Trophies, Palms. Grand Sonata for Pianoforte. For Beethoven’s Monument) later that year.[3]The work is dedicated to Liszt because of the Hungarian composer’s involvement in the efforts to build a monument to Beethoven. (In return, Liszt dedicated his Sonata in B minor to Schumann in 1854, ironically the year in which Schumann attempted suicide and was admitted to the asylum.)[4]Schumann’s original plan was to donate the proceeds of this composition to the Bonn Beethoven monument, but as the talks with the publisher fell apart, the work was put aside for a while.[5]The letter Schumann wrote to Clara in 1838 reveals that the titles of the movements were changed to Ruine, Siegesbogen, u. Sternbild (Ruins, Victory Arch and Constellation), and the title of the overall work became Dichtungen (Poems).[6 ]In the letter, he shared with Clara, “I strove after this word [Dichtungen(Poems)] for a very long time, without being able to find it; I feel it is very noble and descriptive for musical compositions”.[7]However, less than a month prior to the publication, Dichtungen (Poems) was replaced by the generic title Fantasie (Fantasy).[8]

Along with the complicated history described above, Schumann’s focus also shifted over time. It is true that the composer had Beethoven in mind as evident in the original title “Grand Sonata for Beethoven”. Schumann also paid tribute to Beethoven by quoting “Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder” (Accept, then, these songs), the last song from Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved), op. 98, at the end of the first movement.[9]And yet it seems that Schumann could not help going back to Clara for the source of inspiration. His choice of An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved) to quote Beethoven was a sign of his longing for Clara as the couple was forcibly separated at that time, and Clara was the “distant beloved” to Schumann. Schumann’s following comment on Schlegel’s poem in a letter to Clara in 1839 also confirms what was driving Schumann’s composition:

“Are not you really the ‘note’ in the motto? I almost believe you are.”[10]

Charles Rosen (1927-2012), one of the influential American pianists and writers on music, also pointed out that Beethoven’s “Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder”, hinted at throughout the first movement, was the “hidden tone” that “runs secretly through the

Interestingly, when the Bonn Beethoven monument was finally completed in August, 1845, Schumann did not take any notice of the event.[12] (However, it is important to note and also fascinating to know that while he was in the asylum between 1854 and 1856 after his attempted suicide, Schumann visited the monument when his health permitted.) It is probably fair to say that Schumann began and ended this work with Clara on his mind while at the same time keeping Beethoven in mind. For a man of overflowing ideas, having both Clara and Beethoven simultaneously in mind offered a fertile ground to mirror his sentiment. Looking at the text of “Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder”, we discover Clara (or Robert) and Beethoven perfectly merging:  

Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder
Alois Jeitteles

Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder, 
Die ich dir, Geliebte, sang, 
Singe sie dann abends wieder
Zu der Laute süßem Klang!
Wenn das Dämmrungsrot dann ziehet
Nach dem stillen blauen See,
Und sein letzter Strahl verglühet
Hinter jener Bergeshöh;
Und du singst, was ich gesungen,
Was mir aus der vollen Brust 
Ohne Kunstgepräng erklungen,
Nur der Sehnsucht sich bewußt: 
Dann vor diesen Liedern weichet
Was geschieden uns so weit,
Und ein liebend Herz erreichet
Was ein liebend Herz geweiht! 

Accept, then, these songs
 (English Translation by Richard Stokes)

Accept, then, these songs
I sang for you, beloved;
Sing them again at evening
To the lute’s sweet sound!
As the red light of evening draws
Towards the calm blue lake,
And its last rays fade
Behind those mountain heights;
And you sing what I sang
From a full heart
With no display of art,
Aware only of longing:
Then, at these songs,
The distance that parted us shall recede,
And a loving heart be reached
By what a loving heart has hallowed![13]

One may also argue that abandoning structured sonata form and replacing it with the more improvisatory fantasy that expresses spontaneous feeling are a sign of moving away from Beethoven, but it is probably more appropriate to understand it as a reflection of Beethoven; Beethoven’s two sonatas, op. 27, no. 1 and no. 2, were both published as sonata quasi una fantasia, and his late sonatas certainly challenge the boundaries of sonata form in favor of freer expressions. 

Fantasie in C major, op. 17 is another work in which Florestan (the exuberant side of Schumann) and Eusebius (the reflective side of Schumann) participate, as evident in the following letter Schumann wrote to the publisher regarding this work for the first time in 1936:

“Florestan and Eusebius would very much like to do something for Beethoven’s monument and to this end have written something which goes by the following title: Ruinen, Trophaeen, Palmen. Grand Sonata for Pianoforte. Beethoven’s Monument.”[14]

While Florestan and Eusebius collaborate on the first movement, the triumphal second movement represents Florestan. The third movement in this program unmistakably projects the Eusebiusian world with the tempo marking Langsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten.(Slow and solemn. Consistently quiet.). As shown below, this movement takes the audience to many different and surprising keys mostly by going down a third before returning to its home key of C major in the end. A series of tonicizations and modulations could be interpreted as the representation of Eusebius’ dreamy character. It is fascinating that the first important modulation that takes place at measure 30 is again the remote and surprising key of A-flat major, the important key in Myrthen as previously discussed.  

mm. 1-29C major
mm. 30-35A-flat major
mm. 36-59Transition with a series of tonicizations
mm. 60-86F major
mm. 87-92D-flat major
mm. 93-110Transition with a series of tonicizations 
mm. 111-142C major

Modulations in the third movement of Fantasie in C Major, op. 17.

It is also important to note that the final page of the autograph version of Schumann’s copyist Carl Brückner from Leipzig shows that Schumann originally intended to end the entire work with Beethoven’s “Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder” (Accept, then, these songs), repeating the quotation from the first movement with slight changes to the harmonization.[15]Although Schumann abandoned this idea and replaced it with the closing measures as we know them today, notable pianists such as Charles Rosen and András Schiff (b. 1953) have recorded this work with the original ending.[16]

G. Henle Verlag, the publisher of the urtext edition, used to include in a footnote the original ending with the quotation of Beethoven’s “Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder”, but removed it in 2003.[17]The publisher explains that it is because of their responsibility as editors and publisher to honor the decision made by the composer; Schumann’s will was clearly to cross out the original ending and replace it with the current ending, which means the composer did not want the original ending to be played.[18]

It is true that we must respect the composer’s final decision. However, in this program, I have decided to present this last movement of Fantasie in C Major, op. 17, with the original ending because it beautifully captures what a fleeting moment is. In the original ending, after the overflowing (and almost uncontrollable) emotion with Schumann’s instruction nach und nach bewegter und schneller (gradually moving forward and faster), the music comes to complete silence, and what we hear at the very end of this work is Beethoven’s “Nimm sie hin denn, diese Lieder” with the marking Adagio. Although Schumann quotes only the two-measure melody, he repeats it over and over as if to savor the moment and refuse to let it go. The dissonance created by the tonic pedal and dominant chord toward the end reminds us of “Vor Liebe und Liebesweh” (with love and the pain of love) at the end of Die Lotosblume.    

If you are interested in reading the full program notes with more detailed analyses, you can access them here:

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[1]Nicholas Marston, “Fantasie in C major, Op 17: Introduction,” on Hyperion Records (accessed July 16 2018), https://www.hyperion-records.co.uk.

[2]Ernst Herttrich, “Preface”, in Robert Schumann: Fantasie C-dur, Opus 17, ed. Ernst Herttrich (Munich: G. Henle Verlag, 2003), III; Marston, “Fantasie in C major, Op 17: Introduction,” on Hyperion Records


[4]Wolf-Dieter Seiffert, “Schumann’s Fantasie Opus 17 (and Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B minor),” on G. Henle Verlag (accessed July 21 2018), https://www.henle.com.

[5]Herttrich, “Preface”, in Robert Schumann: Fantasie C-dur, Opus 17, ed. Ernst Herttrich, III.

[6]Ibid., IV.



[9]Herttrich, “Preface”, in Robert Schumann: Fantasie C-dur, Opus 17, ed. Ernst Herttrich, III.; Nicholas Marston, “Fantasie in C major, Op 17: Introduction,” on Hyperion Records.

[10]Nicholas Marston, “Fantasie in C major, Op 17: Introduction,” on Hyperion Records.

[11]Charles Rosen, The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1972), 451. 

[12]Herttrich, “Preface”, in Robert Schumann: Fantasie C-dur, Opus 17, ed. Ernst Herttrich, III.

[13]“Nimm sie hin den, diese Lieder (1816) op. 98 no. 6,” on Oxford Lieder (accessed July 25 2018), https://www.oxfordlieder.co.uk.

[14]Herttrich, “Preface”, in Robert Schumann: Fantasie C-dur, Opus 17, ed. Ernst Herttrich, III.

[15]Seiffert, “Schumann’s Fantasie Opus 17 (and Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B minor),” on G. Henle Verlag.


[17]Wolf-Dieter Seiffert, “Schumann’s Fantasie Opus 17 (and Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B minor),” on G. Henle Verlag.



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