SCHUMANN, R.: Kreisleriana / Waldszenen / Blumenstuck (Karol Kopernicky/ Paul Gulda) (Naxos: 8.550401)
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RobertSchumann (1810 -1856) Kreisleriana, Op. 16
Waldszenen:Neun Klavierstucke, Op. 82 (Forest Scenes: Nine Piano Pieces)
Theson of a writer and publisher, Robert Schumann, in common with a number of other composersof his generation, had marked literary proclivities. As a musician he must initially haveseemed something of a dilettante. With the support of a well known piano teacher,Friedrich Wieck, he was able to persuade his mother and guardian, after his father'sdeath, to allow him to give up university studies to concentrate on music, but hisunwillingness to follow a consistent course of technical work and weakness in his fingers,the possible result of mercury treatment for a venereal infection, made his contemplatedcareer as a concert pianist impossible. His marriage to the pianist Clara Wieck, hisformer teacher's favourite daughter, came about in 1840, but only after prolongedlitigation with his future father-in-law. An uneasy decade in which he turned from writingpiano music to compositions generally on a larger scale led to an appointment as directorof music in D??sseldorf, where he succumbed, in 1854, to final insanity. He died in 1856.
Thewriter and composer E. T. A. Hoffmann exercised a considerable influence over Schumann. InKreisleriana, a work completed in 1838 anddedicated on publication to Chopin, he pays tribute to Hoffmann and the characterKapellmeister Johannes Kreisler used by Hoffmann to express some of his own ideas aboutthe conflict between artist and Philistine society. Writing to Clara, Schumann tells herthat the new work is one in which she and one of her ideas plays the main part; it is tobe dedicated to her and to no one else and as she recognizes herself in it, she may smilefondly. Any association between Clara Wieck and Kreisler could hardly be flattering.
Hoffmann's Kreisleriana uses as its centralcharacter a mad musician; his original title, indeed, had been Lucid Intervals of an Insane Musician. Schumann, inthe eight short pieces that make up his Kreisleriana,expresses varying moods, starting with an agitated D minor, followed by an expressive Bflat major piece that includes two contrasted Intermezzi. The first mood returns in astormy G minor, succeeded by a gentler interlude that serves to introduce an energetic Gminor episode. The sixth piece, in a tranquil B flat major gives way to a stormy C minorseventh, with its own interlude of counterpoint, relaxing finally as it moves towards theconcluding G minor scherzando. Kreisleriana
was revised by the composer in 1850.
Blumenst??ck,Op. 19,is a very different work. Written in 1839 in Vienna, where Schumann was exploring thepossibilities for publication of his music review the NeueZeitung f??r Musik, it originally bore the title Guirlande and is, in effect, a garland of musicalflowers, little pieces, as he described them in a letter to Clara, prettily put together.
In the key of D flat major, Blumenst??ck isin a series of episodes, of which the second, itself varied in key and mood, forms arecurrent refrain.
Waldszenenwasthe work of 1848 and 1849, towards the end of the period the Schumanns, with their growingfamily, spent in Dresden. The years were disturbed by political events and an uprisingagainst the King that forced Schumann himself to take temporary refuge outside the cityand Wagner, who had sided with the revolutionaries, to make his escape to Switzerland. Nowin the eighth year of their marriage, Clara was pregnant with their sixth child, andSchumann was again haunted by the black bats of depression. The nine Forest Scenes startwith an Entrance, followed by a Hunter in Ambush and Lonely Flowers. The fourth piece,which Clara Schumann always excluded from her concert performances of the work, has at itshead an eerie poem by Friedrich Hebbel:
DieBlumen, so hoch sie wachsen,
sindbla?ƒ hier, wie der Tod;
nureine in der Mitte
stehtda im dunkeln Rot.
Diehat es nicht von der Sonne:
nietraf sie deren Glut;
siehat es von der Erde,
unddie trank Menschenblut.
Theflowers, so high they grow,
Arepale here, like death;
Onlyone in the middle
Standsthere in dark red.
Itscolour is not from the sun:
Norfrom its heat;
Itis from the earth,
Anddrank of human blood.
TheFriendly Landscape lightens the atmosphere,with a pause at a Wayside Inn, a Prophetic Bird, Hunting Song and final Departure.
TheAustrian pianist Paul Gulda was born in Vienna in 1961 and had his first piano lessonsfrom Roland Batik at the age of nine, later studying with his father, Friedrich Gulda,with Leonid Brumberg and finally, for three years, with Rudolf Serkin in the UnitedStates, where he participated in the Marlboro Festival. He began his concert career in apiano duo with Roland Batik, and a series of unusual recitals that included improvisation.
Paul Gulda has since enjoyed a busy career as a soloist throughout Europe, in the UnitedStates, South America and Japan. He has appeared as a soloist on a number of occasionswith the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, with which he made his Salzburg Festival debut in1988.