Schumann

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Schumann

I've just been looking through old threads and there seems to be very little on Schumann.....

I have come to Schumann only recently - perhaps only in the last year or so. I had heard odd pieces here and there (especially the ubiquitous Traumerie) but had never really felt much of an attraction. Largely through ignorance, I think I must have put him with all the other early Romantic composers - espcially Chopin and Mendelssohn - and foolishly decided he wasn't going to be my cup of tea.

Then I heard the Fantasy in C and since then I have been gradually working my way through his stuff. I still have a long way to go, but the more I hear, the more I want to hear. At the moment, I tend to listen to the piano music (there seems to be a lot of it!), though I have also dipped (briefly) into the symphonies and chamber works. 

I would be interested in:

1. Other people's views on Schumann. Pieces they like, don't like and so on. What Schumann means to them. Where they place him in the "tradition". Is he a true great or only a minor great?

2. General guidance. What are the key, indispensable works? Which ones are "second rate" - if any? Are the later works really marred by the decline in his mental health? Favourite recordings and performances.

It is a little general, but as I mentioned, there doesn't seem to be much on Schumann on this forum (I expect someone will correct me.......) and a general opening may suggest more specific lines of development later on.

Schumann piano music

Some of Schumann's piano music has been one of my first loves since I first became seriously interested in serious music. It was perhaps inspired by hearing Julius Katchen (who died in 1969) play Carnaval, as I still regard a recital of his as the greatest piano recital I have ever attended. I must now have getting on for a dozen recordings of the work & still regard Katchen's as my favourite. Then there is another favourite work, Kreisleriana, where I had a low fi open reel tape off the Third Programme of Moiseiwitsch's recording from his last ever studio sessions. I wasn't able to get the LP and had to wait about 45 years for its first ever reissue & CD appearance last year (DG). His technique had perhaps slipped a bit but not his response to his favourite composer. His Carnaval & Kinderscenen too I would put amongst my favourites together with his Fantasie. 

 

Another lovely disc I'm very fond of is Sergio Fiorentino's recital from late in his career with the Fantasie (a favourite performance), 2nd Sonata, Arabesque, Novellette etc (APR). Other must haves are the Fantasiestucke & I like the recording by Juana Zayas, who also gives good accounts of Carnaval & Fantasie, all beautifully  recorded (Music & Arts) & an artist whose recordings deserve to be much better known (there was an early post on here about her recordings).

 

Of our own younger pianists in relatively recent recordings I enjoy Lucy Parham's disc of Sonata 2, Papillons & Kreisleriana (ASV) & Leon McCawley's 2 CD set on Avie of many of the major pieces is good but not perhaps quite the equal of some of the others mentioned. Arrau too was good (as ever) in what I have heard of his Schumann. 

 

Brendel too has recorded the Fantasie twice, his Vanguard recording with the symphonic studies being perhaps preferable to the Philips version.

 

For the Davidsbundlertanze I like the vital & lively 1920s recording by Clara's pupil Fanny Davies & for the Carnival Jest from Vienna, Michelangeli's live Festival Hall performance.

 

I suppose the piano concerto must be Schumann's best known & most popular work & I've lost count of how many versions of that are on my shelves but my favourite recordings are Fleisher & Katchen.

 

I'll leave Schumann's symphonies to others for now as I have only one set (Szell) and I'm sure Parla will want to comment on the chamber music, but  it's Schumann's piano music that does it for me and puts him amongst the greats for that genre if not perhaps for his orchestral works (except of course for the concerto) .

 

Thanks for raising the topic Jane I await others' views with interest.

Nick   

Schumann...the unpleasant Great.

Jane, this is a huge, almost open-ended, subject. I thought to initiate a thread on Schumann's Chamber Music, after Mendelssohn's, but, since the latter got stuck, I postponed it. I guess now I may have to incorporate it here, in one or the other way.

33lp (or Nick by now) referred very eloquently on most of Schumann's superb Piano works. The problem is that he wrote quite a few less inspiring ones (his complete Piano works cover about 13-15 discs along with transcriptions etc.), but the great ones (and they are not few) are second to none. His Fantasy in C, Op.17 is on a par with every other peak of the repertory.

His Chamber Music has to offer some wonderful but not easily accessible Piano Trios, very rewarding after repeated listening and further examination, a superb Piano Quartet and a monumental Piano Quintet. His String Quartets are more mystique, but can be very rewarding the more you explore them, while the Violin Sonatas are the more problematic, with the exception of the more "humanly" playable in a minor. His small contribution to the Viola (Marchenbilder, Op.113) and the Clarinet (Fantasy Pieces, Op.73) are wonderful works, belonging to the core repertory of the instruments concerned and being often performed and recorded by the most relevant esteemed soloists.

In sum, his Chamber Music is a must, but not open to a prima-vista listening.

Later one, if you allow me, I can go even work by work, and give you some suggestions for rewarding recordings.

His Concertos: the Piano Concerto needs no introduction. It is a classic and has been honoured by almost any pianist. The Cello Concerto likewise, maybe less convincing, but cellists all over the world love and honour it. The Violin, however, has not been that well-served. I think Schumann had a problem with the instrument, juding from his Violin Sonatas too.

For the Symphonies, in a recent thread (on the recordings section), there were some exchanges with me, Matthew and some more, but I'm sure plenty can follow and be repeated, elaborated, expanded...

The Symphonies, in general, are more approachable, but to my surprise, Matthew and possibly more members, might find them still difficult to appreciate. The First has some most memorable moments of brilliant (musical) humour in the last movements, while the Second is a Romantic but much worthy tribute to Beethoven, with a most beautiful slow movement and a forceful but bright Finale. The Third has one of the most rewarding and fortright First movements (it could be a brilliant Finale too), an unusual slow movement and a very mysterious extra movement before the exuberant and superbly orchestrated Finale. The Fourth is the more enigmatic, but still enjoyable, particularly in good hands and great Orchestras (e.g. Sawallisch, Bernstein).

Finally, his Choral and Vocal works are not negligible either. Some of the Song Cycles are masterpieces of the highest order (e.g. Frauenliebe und Leben, O.42). However, good performances, dedicated performers and great productions needed to reveal the inner beauty and all the subtle nuances. His only Opera Genoveva is worth exploring and a probable influence for Wagner. I guess these works could be the last part of this thread, so I may stop here, for now.

Parla

 

So much Schumann

Jane,

I'm a great Schumann fan but I do think the subject is so wide ranging it will be difficult to keep a coherent discussion.

I don't know what others think but I'd suggest restricting ourselves to one or two genres.  Problem is which?  The symphonies are the subject of an interesting but controversial article in the most recent issue of Gramophone.  That might be a good starting point.  Otherwise my own preference would be for his Lieder, an area generally neglected in the Forum. Perhaps more than one thread (you could even re-open your duplicate thread with a sub-topic)!

Whatever is decided, I'm happy to contribute.

 

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

c hris johnson wrote:

c hris johnson wrote:

Jane,

I'm a great Schumann fan but I do think the subject is so wide ranging it will be difficult to keep a coherent discussion.

I don't know what others think but I'd suggest restricting ourselves to one or two genres.  Problem is which?  The symphonies are the subject of an interesting but controversial article in the most recent issue of Gramophone.  That might be a good starting point.  Otherwise my own preference would be for his Lieder, an area generally neglected in the Forum. Perhaps more than one thread (you could even re-open your duplicate thread with a sub-topic)!

Whatever is decided, I'm happy to contribute.

 

Chris

 

I am sure you are right, Chris. It is wide-ranging and may need sub-divisions fairly soon. But at the moment, wide-ranging and general is what I am after - given that I have only recently taken to Schumann and am still pretty ignorant. We can move to the detailed stuff later - if we need to. As much as anything, I am just interested in what others think of Schumann and the works they really value. That is the stage I am at right now! (There are also not that many of us at the moment. A general, open ended thread might be more welcoming and certainly easier to sustain - even if it lacks the cohesion of a more tightly organised discussion.)

But by all means initiate a more detailed thread on the symphonies or whatever........

Bi Polar or Schizoaffective Disorder

' but had never really felt much of an attraction. Largely through ignorance,' Because you're unfamiliar with an artist and his work, don't be so hard on yourself. It's an ongoing journey for all of us.

One of my favorite traits about much of Schumann's piano compositions is his seemingly manic driven chromatic meandering that slows down and speeds up as if he can't choose where to resolve a phrase. He describes the abstract creative mind so beautifully and the effect is so organic that I'm in his head and heart from start to finish. And by the time he reaches the last resolving chord, I'm often totally exhausted.

I have a few favorites, so I'll list them now. The historic four CD box set from the Andante label of selected piano music by greats of the golden age. Also, the many recordings by Clara Haskil which are available on various labels but the Phillips series of Piano Greats of the 20th Century offers a two CD set of Schummann by Haskil. A real standout both in performance and in sound are the Violin Sonatas by Isabelle Faust on CPO SWR. The Florestan Trio offers up a stellar recording of the Piano Trios on hyperion. Martha Argerich and friends couple the Schumann Fantasiestücke Op. 88 with the Brahms Klavierquartett Op. 25 on DG. And then finally and take your pick on recordings, but the 'Rhenish' Symphony or in other words, his third symphony. I'm not all that knowledgeable about his lieder but it's considered some of the finest and on par with Schubert.

 

At the end of a concert program I once had read which designated the final few paragraphs toward Schumann's psychiatric issues, the reviewer mentioned that evidence pointed towards his diagnosis as being bi-polar disorder however I tend to believe that he was either a multiple diagnosis sufferer of bi-polar with traits of schizophrenia or more likely, having schizoaffective disorder with some type of personality disorder like obsessive-compulsive. Having been untreatable at the time, his condition would have progressed causing severe behavior and mood swings with delirious confusion and hallucinations.

goofyfoot

kreisleriana

http://youtu.be/4jTfe3gQXoM

Jane - back later, but just listen to the first piece of this with the music. It's pure musical ecstasy, and Horowitz nails it! One of the greatest piano works written - all of it.

On this first piece, I could listen all day to bars 9-12...the way the 6ths are held over to make 7ths in the left hand and the resultant harmonies are genius...

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

WIll do, Mark.

WIll do, Mark.

Will respond to everyone else later, too.........not free until later!

33lp wrote:Some of Schumann's

33lp wrote:

Some of Schumann's piano music has been one of my first loves since I first became seriously interested in serious music. It was perhaps inspired by hearing Julius Katchen (who died in 1969) play Carnaval, as I still regard a recital of his as the greatest piano recital I have ever attended. I must now have getting on for a dozen recordings of the work & still regard Katchen's as my favourite. Then there is another favourite work, Kreisleriana......

 

Thanks for all this, Nick. I will have a look for the Katchen. I have his Brahms "complete" set and always find myself going back to it. At the moment, I have been listening to Kempff from his 4-CD set, which I really like - as I tend to like most Kempff recordings........

A Fresh Start.......

parla wrote:

His Chamber Music has to offer some wonderful but not easily accessible Piano Trios, very rewarding after repeated listening and further examination, a superb Piano Quartet and a monumental Piano Quintet. His String Quartets are more mystique, but can be very rewarding the more you explore them, while the Violin Sonatas are the more problematic, with the exception of the more "humanly" playable in a minor. His small contribution to the Viola (Marchenbilder, Op.113) and the Clarinet (Fantasy Pieces, Op.73) are wonderful works, belonging to the core repertory of the instruments concerned and being often performed and recorded by the most relevant esteemed soloists.

In sum, his Chamber Music is a must.......

His Concertos: the Piano Concerto needs no introduction. It is a classic and has been honoured by almost any pianist. The Cello Concerto likewise, maybe less convincing, but cellists all over the world love and honour it.....

Parla

The piano concerto is one of the few Schumann pieces I know well. I have the Cello (Isserlis/Eschenbach), but haven't given it a go yet. (Local library had it, so I grabbed it a few months back.)

I've also managed to pick up a few chamber works here and there, but again - apart from the piano quartet and piano quintet, both of which are superb - I haven't listened to any just yet.

What about his choral works? I keep coming across his Requiem - and something called the "Requiem for Mignon", whatever that is. Worth getting? Also, Scenes from Faust crops out quite a lot. The BPO did it this season with Daniel Harding. Again - a masterpiece? I'd be interested to know how it compares to Berlioz's Damnation of Faust, which is one my all-time favourite pieces.

Thanks

goofyfoot wrote: A real

goofyfoot wrote:

A real standout both in performance and in sound are the Violin Sonatas by Isabelle Faust on CPO SWR. The Florestan Trio offers up a stellar recording of the Piano Trios on hyperion. Martha Argerich and friends couple the Schumann Fantasiestücke Op. 88 with the Brahms Klavierquartett Op. 25 on DG. And then finally and take your pick on recordings, but the 'Rhenish' Symphony or in other words, his third symphony. I'm not all that knowledgeable about his lieder but it's considered some of the finest and on par with Schubert.

Thanks for this, goofyfoot. I will certainly look out for the Florestan Trio's recordings - I love every single thing they have done. I sometimes feel they were designed with my personal tastes in mind. A pity they have now disbanded. It would be nice if Hyperion could issue the lot in a nice box set........I also like Faust in just about everything, too. I didn't know she had recorded the sonatas, so I will have a look for them too.

As for his mental deterioration, I get the feeling that many of his later works (none of which I know) are going through something of a re-evaluation. Initially written off as the products of a diseased mind (I read that Brahms and Clara even tried to hide them from posterity), there seems to be a growing sense that they are worth a fresh look........

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