Album für die Jugend marks my first collaboration with my wife Muriel von Braun in concert. I had transcribed all of the 43 movements of the piano piece for String Trio and performed them already several times in smaller selections without images. For the first performance of the complete Album, I asked Muriel to create images to accompany the music. She made a series of images drawing her inspiration from listening to the pieces, but not illustrating them directly. We chose together images that work with each piece in a way that underlines the structure of the whole cycle. On this page you can see a few samples of what are projected on a big screen in the concert.

Why the transcription?

It started as a little Christmas card to my colleagues of the Zebra Trio, I meant to transcribe just a few movements of the Album to send to my friends. Like everyone who has played any instrument, I knew some of these pieces, but not the whole Album. Little by little I realised that I hadn't at all understood all the intricacies of the piece. The more I advanced, the more it became clear I couldn't leave anything out, not even the pieces that seemed to defy transcription. In the end I worked for months until I had transribed the whole Album.  I began to see the incredible web of variations that knits all the pieces into a very elaborate tapestry while retaining a deceiving simplicity throughout.

Much later I learned about the possible connection between Schumann's Album für die Jugend and William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789-94). Blake's work is divided in two parts in exactly the same (unusual) number of poems as Schumann's pieces; Für Kleinere - Songs of Innocence: 18;  Für Erwachsenere - Songs of Experience: 25. Although I can't know for sure what the order of the Blake poems was in the edition Schumann had, there are many obvious connections between the subjects. It seems that - typical of Schumann - he hid more mysterious messages inside these very innocent-looking pieces.

Why the association with images?

As William Blake illustrates all of his poems with a print, it seemed natural to associate images with Schumann's pieces. Without aiming to illustrate the music we create another web of links between pieces which may help the subconscious of the listener to sense the connections in the music. Furthermore, as this must be the longest String Trio in the classical repertoire (around 73 minutes), having the titles projected with the images helps the audience not get lost in the forest of 43 pieces. This was also the perfect and long-awaited occasion to work together in concert with Muriel.

How to perform the Album with images?

The images are on a PowerPoint file and using a laptop computer connected to a video projector can be projected onto a screen or wall during the performance. The first part, For Children, lasts about 22 minutes and the second, For Adults about 44 minutes. An intermission can be placed between the two.



Robert Schumann:

Album für die Jugend op. 68

Performances of Album für die Jugend for String Trio by Anssi Karttunen with images by Muriel von Braun:

Festival des Arcs, France: 3.8.2013

Eric Crambes, violin, Hélène Clément, viola, Anssi Karttunen, cello

Suvisoitto Festival: Finland 27.6.2014

John Storgårds violin, Tuula Fleivik viola, Anssi Karttunen cello

Institute Finlandais, Paris 27.10.2014

Zebra Trio

Fundacion Juan March, Madrid, 29.10. 2014

Zebra Trio