Schumann

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Chopin versus Schumann.

Jane, you sense very well the difference in Chopin's contribution to piano literature versus Schumann's to...Music.

As some pianists, friends of mine, have pointed out, Chopin composed essential music for the piano. Schumann wrote great pianistic works for the Music. Thus, Schumann's (great) pianistic works are more complex in form, larger in scope and much more innovative in their structure. While Chopin can easily be digested at first go, Schumann grows on the listener through repeated listening and further exploration.

Parla

Schumann's Symphonies...Order?

I see that Paul's suggestion as for the order of starting listening to Schumann's Symphonies almost coincides with their chronological order of composition (1,4,2,3). Of course, the 4th was highly revised almost at the end of his life, so it became, as for the edition, the 4th.

I can fully agree with Paul that it is a very good idea to start with the First Symphony. It is the most straightforward, positive, inventive but pleasant at the same time as for its melodies, without loosing the subtlety of style and the imaginative emotional flow of ideas. It is the most successful of the four Symphonies as for the best possible impression at first go.

Its freshness, stimulation, exhilaration and refinement (through subtle nuances) makes its nickname quite apt, while its almost perfect structural design and form makes it the most indefectible of his Symphonies. The Finale is one of these few (perhaps) very creatively humorous and so happy musical moments of this not so fortunate composer. The Scherzo is whimsical despite its "ominous" d minor key signature, while the slow movement is typically lyrical and the First one is the "great" one with some of the most joyful musical aspects of Schumann's ingenuity.

As for the performances, I am 100% with Paul as for Sawallisch and the glorious Staatskapelle Dresden, for a Classical, straight, sensible and very precise approach to these "sensitive" works. It exists also, in SACD format, in Warner Japan. Then, there is the very radical, broad in scope and utterly dramatic as for the overall effect second recording by Benstein and the unique VPO, in an excellent recording, on DG. For the other side of the spectrum (Chamber size orchestras, original instruments etc.), Gardiner is very good, if you can swallow his "Revolutionary" forces and approach (on Archiv), Dausgaard and his more conventional Swedish C.O. (on BIS) or the very recent Nezet-Seguin and the more "modern" Chamber Orchestra of Europe, on DG (I'm neither convinced or thrilled, but the British media seem to be very excited about him). Somewhere, in the middle of them, Harnoncourt is always intresting to listen. He performs with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as well (on Warner). These suggestions are only indicative. There are plenty of other viable alternatives (Klemperer, Zinman, Celibidache, Muti etc.)

I sincerely hope, Jane, you'll find the First a quite rewarding expereince. So, then, we can move to the more problematic, enigmatic but most innovative Fourth (and its two formal versions).

Parla

At the risk of making enemies

At the risk of making enemies here, I once again find Parla's contribution entirely sensible and helpful. Incidentally, although I was 'brought up' on Sawallisch - one of my first classical purchases about 40 years ago, and duplicated since on CD, I do think that the recording quality, never quite first rate, has not worn well. I suspect this is not one that I would bother with buying in high resolution remastering - the basic quality isn't high enough to justify it.

What about the "Mahler"

What about the "Mahler" edition? Anyone know anything about that? I've got it, as it happens - with Chailly. I picked it up for next to nothing when I was going through my big Mahler phase a few years ago........I read, though this might not be correct, that he Mahlerised the orchestration.......

Mahler's Schumann.

Yes, Jane, Mahler was one of the most eminent musicians who tried to "correct" Schumann's not so bright orchestration. Of course, he did not correct Schumann; he almost "destroyed" all the Schumanesque feeling, flair and identiy of these significant works. Unfortunately, one thing many composers, conductors etc. could not get was that, like Beethoven, these works grew and built their importance and significance out of their final form, which includes even the sometimes awkward orchestration. The great Georg Szell has claimed that "Mahler adulterates the character of these works by wrapping them in a metricious garb of sound completely alien to their nature"!

However, if you ignore this fact, Chailly gives an impressive account of them (on Decca), which, as a listening experience, is rich and rewarding, albeit not...correct or faithful...It is like the translation (and the lover): beautiful but not faithful!

Parla

Thanks parla. Good to know. I

Thanks parla. Good to know. I'm going to have a listen to Schumann 1 today. (I managed to get hold of the recent Rattle........so I'll see how I get on with that.)

Dichterliebe and the Female Voice

No real shortage of female voices in this work. In addition to those mentioned by others, we have Stutzmann with Catherine Collard (RCA, by now, I think, deleted, alas); the historical Suzanne Danco with Guido Agosti; Brigitte Fassbaender and Aribert Reimann, now part of a large HMV box devoted to the singer. For the curious there's a version on Albany with the American soprano Jean Danton, who sings English "revisions" of the Heine texts by the poet Elizabeth Kirschner.

 

Stepping back to the males, I have high personal regard for Mika Nisula's recording on FC - another wonderful Finnish singer.

Thanks Jane, nice of you.

Thanks Jane, nice of you.

 

I wasn’t aware that was a common view on Schumann and kind of makes me feel reassured that If I’m been delirious at least I’m not alone!

 

But I must say I’m surprised to see Chopin been described as “light”, “snob” in his criticism of Schumann or “just a piano composer”. I do regard Chopin much higher than that indeed, in fact I think of him as one of the truly greats,  although this is not a thread about him... Just to say that his criticism of Schumann was not limited to  a quick glance at Kreisleriana. It seems that he just did not regard Schumann as a good piano composer. He famously said that Carnival was “not music at all”.

 

I do like Carnival very much, but it is true that if you kind of dissect most of the individual pieces of cycles like that or Kinderszenen they are almost embarrassing simple. That would be missing the point though, since they are a clear example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

 

My suspicion is that had he not been a German composer when German culture was quickly taking central position in Europe (and by doing so becoming “Universal”), and had he not been a music critic, one of the first ones in fact, in a time when they were hard at work establishing a  Standard Repertoire, he would be more or less forgotten these days, or maybe regarded as a kind of John Field.

 

Ah, but Chopin….

Chopin

But I must say I’m surprised to see Chopin been described as “light”, “snob” in his criticism of Schumann or “just a piano composer”. I do regard Chopin much higher than that indeed, in fact I think of him as one of the truly greats,

I too am a great fan of Chopin's music but I was only referring to his personality. The only audio reference to his personal life that I can think of were a series of programs on BBC 3 going back a couple of years ago. I'll see if I can locate them.

goofyfoot

camaron wrote:

camaron wrote:

But I must say I’m surprised to see Chopin been described as “light”......

I think I might want to retract this! Chopin is clearly a truly great composer. Just about everything he wrote was memorable and perfect. Calling him "light" is really far too simplistic. 

camaron wrote:

My suspicion is that had he [Schumann] not been a German composer when German culture was quickly taking central position in Europe (and by doing so becoming “Universal”), and had he not been a music critic, one of the first ones in fact, in a time when they were hard at work establishing a  Standard Repertoire, he would be more or less forgotten these days, or maybe regarded as a kind of John Field.

This is pretty strong stuff! More or less forgotten! I can't say I've come across this opinion too often.........Are you really saying that all those great pianists who revere him - Argerich, Horowitz, Lupu, Perahia etc - are suffering from a kind of collective blind-spot induced by the pressure of received wisdom?

(I'm not saying this isn't possible, by the way. This can happen. Think of Shakespeare..........) 

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