SCHUMANN, R.: Fantasie Op. 17 / Bunte Blatter Op. 99 (Denes Varjon/ Ibolya Toth) (Naxos: 8.550680)
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Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17
Bunte Blatter Op. 99
Much of the piano music of Schumann was written before hismarriage in 1840, to Clara Wieck, a match that her father, once Schumann's piano teacher,had done all he could to prevent. Schumann himself combined literary interests withmusical, eventually persuading his widowed mother and his guardian to allow him to leaveuniversity and devote his attention to the latter. A weakness in his fingers, frustratedhis ambition to become a virtuoso pianist and after 1840, a year in which he wrote a vastnumber of songs, he was encouraged by his young wife to tackle larger orchestral forms.
Although widely respected both as a composer and as a writer on musical subjects, he hadno official position until his appointment as director of music in D??sseldorf in 1850,his unhappy tenure there interrupted by a break-down and final insanity, leading to hisdeath in 1856.
Schumann's Fantasie in Cmajor, Opus 17, belongs to the earlier period of the composer's life. Itoriginally bore the title Obolen auf BeethovensMonument: Ruinen, Trophaen, Palmen, Grosse Sonate f.d. Piano f. F??r Beethovens Denkmal.
The matter of the Beethoven monument in Bonn was one that interested a number ofmusicians. A statue was finally erected in 1845, largely as the result of the generosityof Franz Liszt, who took the opportunity of providing the major part of the money needed,while reserving to himself the choice of artist for the monument. Schumann, who in the enddedicated his Fantasie to Liszt, suggested, that a hundred copies of the Grand Sonata, asit was first envisaged, should be sold for the benefit of the fund. This does not seem tohave happened, and in any case, before its publication in 1839, the work underwent somerevision. Liszt replied enthusiastically to the dedication of a work that he described asof the highest rank, while offering his assistance to Schumann in his proposedrelationship with Clara, in answer to Schumann's implied revelation of the state of hisaffections.
Whatever changes may have been made, the Fantasie remainssomething of a sonata. It is in three movements and is prefaced by four lines fromFriedrich Schlegel, a relation by marriage of the Mendelssohns:
Durch alle Tone tonet
in bunten Erdentraum
ein leiserTon gezogen
f??r den, der heimlich lauschet.
(Through all the sounds in the varied earthly dream, a gentlesound there is, for those who listen in their hearts). Schumann explained this to Clara ina deeply personal way: she was this sound and only she can understand this music, if sheturns her mind back to 1836, when Schumann had deserted her.
The first movement contains fragments of Beethoven's song-cycleAn die ferne Geliebte (To the DistantBeloved), but is dominated by a supremely lyrical melody. The first part of this movementis to be played in a fantastic and passionate manner throughout, while a second melody isto be played "im Legenden- Ton", as recounting a legend. This second sectionserves as a development. The triumphal march of the second movement, in the appropriatekey of E flat major, is to be played with energy. In its course it makes considerabletechnical demands on the player. The meditative final movement returns to the key of Cmajor.
Schumann's Bunte Blatter,a mixed collection of fourteen piano pieces, was assembled for publication in 1852, a yearbefore the composer's final break-down and closing years of insanity. The collection openswith Three Little Pieces, vignettes in a brief form of which Schumann had absolutemastery. Written in 1838, the first piece, almost a Schumann Song without Words, is in Amajor, a Christmas present for Clara, followed by a second more energetic piece in E minor and a third in a forthright E major,both written in the following year. The third piece originally had the title Jagdst??ck(Hunting Piece). The five Albumblatter (Album-Leaves) that follow startwith a slow piece written in 1841. In the key of F sharp minor, it was to provide a themefor variations by Brahms. This leads to a rapid scherzo-like B minor second piece writtenin 1838 and originally given the title Fata Morgana. It is followed by a more lyrical Aflat major piece composed in 1836 and originally intended for Carnaval and consequentlymaking use of the dancing letters that form the cryptogram on which that work is based.
The piece starts with the notes A flat - C - B, which in German notation become As - C - H, spelling Asch, the name of the place where Schumann's then beloved Ernestine von Frickenlived. A sadder piece follows in E flat minor, originally called Jugendschmerz (Pain of Youth), and written in 1838.
The group ends in E flat major, in lyrical resignation. Novellette,written in 1838, tells a lively story in B minor, to be followed by a B flat minor Praludium in the manner of a toccata.
The D minor Marsch, composed in 1843, startsgently enough, with muffled drums, its mood lightened temporarily in a central F majorTrio section. The mood of evening is evoked in the Bflat major Abendmusik, with its brief excursion into G flat major, while thesucceeding G minor Scherzo, the work of 1841 and once intended for a symphony, has an evenlivelier E minor Trio. The anthology ends with a Gminor Geschwindmarsch (Quick March), that relaxes briefly into G major, beforepursuing its course. The march was written in 1849, the latest of the set in order ofcomposition.
Denes Varjon was born in Budapest in 1968 and studied thereunder Sandor Falvai at the Academy of Music, where he now serves as a demonstrator in thePiano Department. He has taken part in master-classes in Hungary and abroad under the mostdistinguished teachers, and recent prizes include the 1991 award of first prize in theGeza Anda Piano Competition in Zurich. He has appeared as a recitalist and soloistthroughout Europe, and for three seasons in the Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music. At homehe is a frequent performer for Hungarian Radio.