The distant beloved


Introduced by associate music professor Berthold Hoeckner as “a true performer and scholar,” someone who has the 19th-century composers “at his fingertips,” University of Illinois professor and pianist William Kinderman explored the musical relationship between Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann. Focusing on Schumann’s “most discussed composition” at last Friday’s music-department colloquium, Kinderman traced the evolution of Fantasy in C major, op. 17. The 1839 work, Kinderman explained to an audience of about 40, was a “musical monument” to Beethoven, who had died more than a decade earlier.

To demonstrate Beethoven’s influence on the younger composer, Kinderman played snippets of Schumann’s piece and showed a film clip of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, where political prisoner Florestan is rescued by his wife Leonore. In letters to his future wife, pianist Clara Wieck, while he was writing the Fantasy in C, Schumann compared himself to Florestan and his beloved to Leonore. The Beethoven work, explained Kinderman, was a “part of the personal mythology of Schumann and Wieck,” that served as creative inspiration. As much as he wanted to sit and talk with her, wrote Schumann in one letter to his distant beloved—he was in Leipzig, while she had been ordered to Dresden by her father, who wished to keep the two apart—he dreamed also of “overcoming space and time through artistic means.”


Photos: Kinderman lectures on the connection between Beethoven and Schumann (top); Kinderman plays a section from Schumann's Fantasy in C major, op. 17 (bottom).

November 20, 2006