SCHUMANN, R.: Kreisleriana / Faschingsschwank aus Wien (Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.550783)
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Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Kreisleriana Op. 16
Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op. 26 (Carnival in Vienna)
Arabeske Op. 18
Much of the piano music of Schumann was written before his marriage in 1840to Clara Wieck, a match that her father, once Schumann's piano teacher, had doneall he could to prevent. Schumann himself combined literary interests withmusical, eventually persuading his widowed mother and his guardian to allow himto leave university and devote his attention to the latter. A weakness in hisfingers frustrated his ambition to become a virtuoso pianist and after 1840, ayear in which he w rote a vast number of songs, he was encouraged by his youngwife to tackle larger orchestral forms. Although widely respected both as acomposer and as a writer on musical subjects, he had no official position untilhis appointment as director of music in D??sseldorf in 1850, his unhappy tenurethere interrupted by a break-down and final insanity, leading to his death in1856.
Schumann was deeply influenced by the writing of E.T.A. Hoffmann and in Kreisleriana,completed in 1838 and dedicated on publication to Chopin, he pays tribute toHoffmann and his fictional character Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler, used byHoffmann to express his own ideas of the conflict between the artist andPhilistine society. In a letter to Clara, Schumann tells her that the new workis one in which she and one of her ideas play the main part; it is to bededicated to her and no-one else and as she recognises herself in it she maysmile fondly. Comparison between Clara and Kreisler could hardly be flattering,bearing in mind Hoffmann's original descriptive title Lucid Intervals of anInsane Musician.
The eight short pieces that constitute Kreisleriana express varyingmoods, starting with an agitated D minor, followed by an expressive B flat majorpiece that includes two contrasted Intermezzi. The first mood returns in astormy G minor, succeeded by a gentler interlude that serves to introduce anenergetic G minor episode. The sixth piece, in a tranquil B flat major, givesway to a turbulent C minor seventh, with its own interlude of counterpoint,relaxing finally as it moves towards the concluding G minor scherzando. Schumannrevised Kreisleriana in 1850.
By the year 1839, when he wrote his Faschingsschwank aus Wien, RobertSchumann was deeply involved in a public quarrel with his former teacher andfuture reluctant father-in-law Friedrich Wieck, who had supported his initialambitions of a musical career. As a student, however, Schumann lackedapplication, at least in the technical aspects of the art, while winning anearly reputation as a journalist writing on musical subjects and as a composer,in particular, of attractive piano pieces, often in the form of short vignettesrather than more extended compositions. A brief flirtation with another ofWieck's pupils was followed by a more serious attachment to Wieck's youngestdaughter Clara, who became Schumann's wife only in 1840, after prolongedlitigation between her father and her future husband.
Faschingsschwank aus Wien (Carnival in Vienna), described in a subtitleas Phantasiebilder (fantasy-pictures) for the piano, is dedicated toSchumann's Belgian friend Simonin de Sire and is in five short movements. Thefirst four of these were written in Vienna at carnival time and the fifth afterhis return home to Leipzig, and the composer later described the whole work as agrand romantic sonata. The opening Allegro is in fact in rondo form and, likethe rest of the work, very much in the spirit of the earlier Carnaval, althoughthis first movement is of much greater length. The second movement G minorRomanze serves as a gentle interlude leading to the Scherzino of the third,restoring the original key of B flat major. The energetic E flat minorIntermezzo, with its characteristic figuration, is capped by a vigorous finalsonata-form movement, with a particularly winning second subject.
Schumann wrote his Arabeske in the same year, 1839, dedicating it toFrau Majorin Friederike Serre auf Maxen, to whom he also dedicated hisBlumenst??ck. Major Serre and his wife were originally friends of Wieck and in1837 he had taken his daughter to stay on their country estate at Maxen to avoidSchumann's attentions to Clara, which the Serres in fact encouraged. In theautumn of 1838 Robert Schumann left Leipzig for Vienna. His relationship withClara Wieck had reached a point of some intensity, but her father's entrenchedopposition to anything that might interfere with his daughter's career as apianist and his very reasonable disapproval of Schumann as a possibleson-in-law, had led to a great deal of subterfuge, with a clandestinecorrespondence between the lovers, carried on as best they could. Wieck had, inany case, insisted that, if the couple were to marry, they should not remain inLeipzig, where Schumann was editor of the Neue Zeitschrift f??r Musik. AtClara's suggestion it was proposed that the journal be moved to Vienna, ifsponsors could be found there, and this was the principal object of Schumann'sjourney, hard as it was to be separated from his beloved at a time of someanxiety in their relationship.
In Vienna Schumann was to busy himself with a number of new compositions,including the Arabeske, Opus 18, written towards the end of the year anddesigned for women, as opposed to the robuster Humoreske to be written in thefollowing year. The composer claimed that his aim was to capture the femininemarket for piano music in Vienna, a remark that need not be taken too seriously,At the same time he continued to be influenced by Christian Schuburt's book onmusical aesthetics, in which C major, the key of the Arabeske, wasidentified with the childish and simple, leaving intenser passions to the sharpkeys. The Arabeske is well enough known. Couched in rondo form, itsgently lyrical principal theme frames two slower, minor key episodes.
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.