”I often began writing a sonata for the piano, but nothing decent came of it. In 1803 'Hermann von Unna' was performed with music by Abt Vogler. The music was wonderfully moving to me,
especially the overture. The ideas did not leave me alone, and thus my first Piano Sonata in D minor took shape. It had suddenly become easy. The thoughts fell into order, the thread did not
tear, and I was happy. The other two movements were also soon finished, and I found the courage to play them for Flaschner after my brother and several other fellow pupils had seem them. He was
also surprised and conveyed his joy to others as well. This kindled my desire to compose new works, and soon I brought my friend Flaschner other sonatas; things now continued in this
Schneider’s first piano sonatas also arrived via Flaschner in Leipzig, where they were presented to August Eberhard Müller who, in turn, recommended them for publication to the music publishers Breitkopf & Härtel. Contemporary reviews followed immediately, forming the cornerstone for Schneider’s later success with the public and critics:
„There can hardly be a more agreeable job for a reviewer than what now behoves me: the first, and so outstandingly successful work of a young man – and, with this, to introduce him to the wide world.“
With this introduction, Friedrich Rochlitz opened the discussion of the Trois Sonates pour le Pianoforte composed in 1803 and published the following year as Opus 1. The horn of plenty that Schneider poured out for the piano during the following years in Leipzig brought forth no fewer than 42 piano sonatas, 7 piano concertos, a vast amount of smaller piano pieces and a number of chamber works accompanied by the piano, some of which had already been written before. His entire sonata output, however, was created during the short period from 1802 until 1814 and was completed still before Beethoven had written his late sonatas. From 1815 onwards, the piano as the centre of his compositional interest suddenly receded into the background in favour of vocal music; this was probably due to the fact that he was now working with this repertoire more intensively in his position as Kapellmeister of the State Theatre and of the Seconda Opera Troupe. 24 of his piano sonatas appeared in print; others have been handed down in manuscript form.
In February 1829 the publisher Carl Brüggemann announced in the AMZ the publication of Friedrich Schneider’s Complete Works for the Pianoforte. He planned to publish ”20 sonatas as well as 10 rondos, variations and smaller things“ in 10 volumes by Easter 1830. For reasons unknown, this undertaking was ceased after the publication of Volume 4 and never taken up again later. The sonatas printed again in this ”complete edition“ (Op. 1 Nos. 1 and 3, Op. 20 No. 2 as well as Op. 40) contain rather extensive corrections and revisions in some places. The Sonata No. 1 in D minor (Op. 1 No. 1) composed between May and July 1803 is a good example of the design of Schneider’s piano sonatas until about 1806. Cast in three movements, a fast opening movement is often followed by a lied-like Andante in two or three-part form, rounded off by a Presto movement in sonata or rondo form. Only rarely do the early works feature a slow introduction. Special attention must be paid to the most ”mature“ of these early works, the 13th Sonata in F-sharp minor composed in 1805 in Zittau. The motivic treatment of its sharply contrasted themes gains in significance in the development sections of the outer movements, whereby the powerful sequences of chords lend increasing fullness to the piano-playing from this point on. Beginning in about 1807, Schneider’s acquaintance with the sonatas of Beethoven was reflected in his works. In the Sonata No. 31 in F minor, Op. 21 of 1807, for example, one senses a new, passionate emotionalism, also culminating in a more conscious exploitation of the various registers of the instrument; the composer savours frequent diminished seventh and dominant ninth chords. The Sonatas No. 32 in E minor (Op. 14 ”Grande Sonate Pathétique“) of 1809 and No. 35 in F minor (Op. 27) composed in 1810 should also be mentioned in this connection.
Sonatas No. 36 in C major (Op. 26, 1810) and No. 40 in D major (Op. 40, 1813) are closer in style to the brilliant works of Hummel: passages in octaves, thirds and sixths, scales rattling up and down, leaps over two octaves as well as widely spaced chords are more the rule than the exception. Sonata No. 39 in F minor (Op. 37), also written in 1813, is especially striking for its individual, two-movement design; already in its first movement, a very expansive Scherzo, it combines the brilliant style of Op. 26 and Op. 40 with the passionate pathos of the great sonatas in minor keys. Schneider’s sonata production was already completed by 1814 with the Sonata No. 42 in B-flat major (Op. 78, printed in 1829).
Complete Piano sonatas in 4 volumes
During the next years Pfefferkorn Music Publishing will edit Schneider's piano sonatas in a complete edition of 4 volumes. The content of the single volumes will meet the following criteria:
Volume I+II: two-handed sonatas with opus numbers
Volume III: four-handed sonatas with opus numbers
Volume IV: sonatas without opus numbers (manuscript sonatas)
Within each volume the sonatas are ordered chronological by the year of origin. The edition will be lead by the Leipzig pianist and professor Ulrich Urban. Selected sonatas will be published in inexpensive separat editions. Each volume contains the same features: A comprehensive preface (ger./engl.), facsimile pages as well as a critical commentary (ger.)