SCHUMANN, R.: Kinderszenen / Papillons / Carnaval (Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.550784)
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Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Kinderszenen, Op. 15 Papillons, Op. 2
Carnaval: Sc?¿nes mignonnes sur quatre notes, Op. 9
Robert Schumann must seem in many ways typical of the age in which he lived,combining a number of the principal characteristics of Romanticism in his musicand in his life. Born in Zwickau in 1810, the son of a book seller, publisherand writer, he showed an early interest in literature, and was to make a namefor himself in later years as a writer and editor of the Neue Zeitschriltf??r Musik, a journal launched in 1834. Alter a period at university, tosatisfy the ambitions of his widowed mother but still showing the wide interestsof a dilettante, he turned more fully to music under the tuition of FriedrichWieck, a famous teacher whose energies had been largely directed towards thetraining of his daughter Clara, a pianist of prodigious early talent.
Schumann's own ambitions as a pianist were to be frustrated by a weakness ofthe fingers, the result, it is supposed, of mercury treatment for syphilis,which he had contracted from a servant-girl in Wieck's employment. Neverthelessin the 1830s he was to write a great deal of music for the piano, much of it inthe form of shorter, genre pieces, often enough with some extra-musical,literary or autobiographical association.
In health Schumann had long been subject to sudden depressions and had on oneoccasion attempted to take his own life. This nervous instability had shownitself in other members of his family, in his father and in his sister, andaccentuated, perhaps, by venereal disease, it was to bring him finally toinsanity and death in an asylum. Friedrich Wieck, an anxious father, waspossibly aware of Schumann's weaknesses when he made every effort to prevent aproposed marriage between his daughter Clara and his former pupil. Clara wasnine years younger than Schumann and represented for her father a considerableinvestment of time and hope.
At first, when he lodged in Wieck's house in Leipzig, Schumann had shownlittle interest in Clara, and in 1834 he became secretly engaged to Ernestinevon Fricken, a pupil of Wieck and illegitimate daughter of Baron von Fricken, aBohemian nobleman. It was for her that Schumann wrote his Fasching Schw?ónkeauf vier Noten, a set of pieces based on the four musical notes of his name,S C H A, which, by a lucky chance, also formed the name of the von Fricken'shome-town, Asch. It was this work that was later given the title Carnava,sc?¿nes mignonnes sur quatre notes. By the following summer Schumann haddiscovered the secret of Ernestine's illegitimacy and begun to transfer hisaffections to the fifteen-year-old Clara Wieck.
Wieck was to do his utmost to prevent a marriage that can have brought Claralittle happiness, but alter considerable litigation the marriage took place andthe couple were married in the autumn of 1840, a year in which Schumann was towrite an incredibly large number of songs, before turning his attention, at hiswife's prompting to the larger forms of orchestral music. His subsequent careertook him and his wife first to Dresden and in 1850 to D??sseldorf, where hebriefly held his first official position as director of music for the city, anoffice in which he proved increasingly inadequate. In February, 1854, heattempted to drown himself, and was to spend the remaining years of his life ina private asylum at Endenich, near Bonn He died there on 29th July, 1856.
Schumann wrote his Kinderszenen in 1838 Ashetold Clara, he hadcomposed thirty little pieces, and from these he selected a baker's dozen, allof them designed to express an adult's reminiscence of childhood, or, as he saidin a letter to Clara a reflection of her comment that he sometimes seemed to heras a child. The music is technically undemanding, of ingenuous simplicity, thetitles self-explanatory, without the cryptic implications of Papillons andCarnaval, an outstanding example of what Schumann was able to achieve. Informs as limited as this. Carnaval, Kinderszenen and Papillons allhave strong extra-musical associations Papillons, Opus 2, which includesmusic derived from some earlier pieces, was completed in 1831. Its twelve briefsections are based on the scene of a masked bail in Jean Paul's unfinished novelFlegeljahre, which Schumann later described to Calar as "like theBible"
The plot of Flegeljahre is concerned with the odd conditions imposedin a will by which a house is left to the first of the presumptive heirs to sheda tear and the greater part of the dead man's wealth to Walt, provided that hefulfils a series of inconsequential tasks. At the bail Walt and his brother Vult,a flautist, are present, with their beloved Wina Schumann himself summarised thesequence of events Wall - Vult - the masks - Wina - vulrs dancing - theyexchange masks - confessions - rage, revelations - they rush away - thefinal scene and Vult leaves, playing his flute. The last piece in the collectionbrings the bail to a close with the Grossvatertanz and the striking of theclock, and the last chord of the finale vanishes little by little.
Carnaval, Opus 9, was completed in 1835 and offers a more diverse picturethan Papillons. At the heart of the work are the three Sphinxes,cryptograms based on the notes E flat (German Es), C, B (German H) and A -SCHA(= Schumann), A flat, C, B (H) -ASCH and A, E flat (Es), C, B (H) -ASCH, thesecond two representing the town of Asch where the von Frickens lived. Aroundthese mysterious notes, omitted in performance, the other 21 pieces are ranged,making the most varied use of them as the source of inspiration.
Schumann claimed to have added the names to the pieces afterwards, and it istrue that they are not as precisely programmatic as Papillons, but ratherin the manner of vignettes, brief sketches, from a masked ball. The charactersfrom the commedia dell'arte, Pierrot, Arlequin and Pantalon et Columbine, theold husband with a young wife, are as self-explanatory as the tribute toPaganini and the parody of Chopin. Florestan and Eusebius were pen-names used bySchumann, and represent the tempestuous and the deliberative sides of hischaracter and of his writing. Chiarina is little Clara Wieck, and Estrella isErnestine von Fricken. Reconnaissance is a re-union and Aveu adeclaration of love, while Promenade, Schumann explained in a letter tothe pianist Moscheles, was the kind of walk one might take arm in arm with one'spartner at a ball. The work ends with a march of the right-minded Davidsb??ndleragainst the Philistines, the enemies of true art.
The Hungarian pianist Jeno Jando has won a number of piano competitions inHungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concoursand a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney InternationalPiano Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos andsonatas of Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos ofGrieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and PaganiniRhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.