SCHUMANN, R.: Piano Sonata No. 2 / Nachtstucke / Arabeske (Bernd Glemser/ Dario Müller) (Naxos: 8.550715)
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Robert Schumann(1810 - 1856)
Sonata No.2 in G Minor, Op. 22
Nachtst??cke, Op. 23
Arabeske, Op. 18
>Four Piano Pieces / VierKlavierst??cke, Op. 32
Toccata in C Major, Op. 7
Original Finale / Urspr??nglichesFinale: Presto passionato
Robert Schumann must seem in many ways typical of the age inwhich he lived, combining a number of the principal characteristics of Romanticism in hismusic and in his life. Born in Zwickau in 1810, the son of a bookseller, publisher andwriter, he showed an early interest in literature, and was to make a name for himself inlater years as a writer and editor of the Neue Zeitschrift f??r Musik, a journal launchedin 1834.
After a period at university, to satisfy the ambitions of hisnow widowed mother, while still showing the wide interests of a dilettante, Schumannturned more fully to music under the tuition of Friedrich Wieck, a famous teacher whoseenergies had been largely directed towards the training of his daughter Clara, a pianistof prodigious early talent. The romance that led in 1840 to, their marriage, in spite of the bitteropposition of Wieck, was followed by a period in which Clara's career as a pianist had, insome way, to be reconciled with her husband's ambitions and the demands of a growingfamily. A weakness in the fingers had caused Schumann to give up the idea of becoming avirtuoso pianist, but he drew attention as a writer on musical matters and, increasingly,as a composer. His final position in D??sseldorf as director of music was not successful,however, and culminated in an attempt at suicide, insanity and death in 1856.
Much of Schumann's piano music was written in the 1830s. Theyear of his marriage was a year of song, followed by attempts at works on a much largerscale, with the encouragement of his wife. Early attempts at writing piano sonatas werelargely unfinished, until the Sonata in F sharp minor, published in 1836 with a dedicationto Clara Wieck. In the same year Schumann published a Concertsans orchestre in F minor, re-issued with an additional movement in 1853 as histhird piano sonata. The Sonata No.2 in G minor, Opus 22,was apparently written over a number of years. The second movement Andantino was composedin June 1830, the first and third movements in June 1833 and the original demanding Finalein October 1835. The alternative Finale, written after the objections of Clara Wieck thatthe original Presto passionato was far too difficult, was composed in Vienna in December1838. The sonata was published the following year. The first movement, So rasch wie moglich, as fast as possible, has afirst subject melody based on the descending scale, with a broken chord left-handaccompaniment. The movement is in the established tripartite sonata-allegro form, with acentral development and final recapitulation, ending in a rapid coda. The gentle Andantinooffers a lyrical melody over a repeated chordal accompaniment. The Scherzo has all theenergy of Florestan, the pseudonym used by Schumann to indicate the passionate andimpulsive side of his character, in his writing and in his music, in contrast with thegentler and more sober Eusebius. The original finale, published posthumously in 1866,represents Florestan at his wildest, calling for the greatest dexterity, agility andpassion. The alternative Rondo is not without technical demands, increasing in speed to aprestissimo, a cadenza-like passage, and a conclusion marked immer schneller undschneller, ever faster and faster. It should be added that Clara Wieck expressed thegreatest admiration for a work which, for her, expressed so clearly Schumann's wholebeing. Her criticisms of the original finale arose from her fear that the public and evenconnoisseurs would not understand it.
The Toccata in C major, Opus7, was published in 1834 and dedicated to Schumann's close friend LudwigSchunke, a young pianist, pupil of Kalkbrenner and Herz. Schumann introduced Schunke toWieck's circle in Leipzig and nursed him through his final illness in 1834, the yearfollowing their first meeting. Schunke's friendship was of the greatest help to Schumannin his recovery from severe depression and in the foundation of the notional Davidsbund,the League of David, the group imagined to fight against the enemies of true art, thePhilistines. Schunke, an infant prodigy, son of a Stuttgart horn-player, mastered thisToccata toccatarum, later an important item in the virtuoso repertoire of the young ClaraWieck, whose technical accomplishment in the Toccata impressed Mendelssohn, when hevisited the Wiecks in Leipzig in 1834. It seems that the Toccata had been first devisedabout 1830, while Schumann was in Heidelberg, offering the composer a technical challengeto his own virtuosity as a pianist. It was later revised, before its final publication.
The Four Klavierst??cke
that form Opus 32 were written in 1838 and1839 and published in 1841. The first piece, a B flat major Scherzo, has a marked dottedrhythm, relaxing into a central D minor trio section, before the return of the scherzoitself. This is followed by a G minor Gigue, very fast, with imitative entries inappropriately Baroque style. The Romanze, to be played fast and with bravura, is in Dminor, lessening in intensity in a somewhat slower central section, before the return ofthe original excitement. A gentle G minor Fughette completes the set, its subjectaccompanied by occasional chords on its first appearance.
The Nachtst??cke,Nightpieces, that make up Opus 23
were written in 1839 and published a year later, without the titles that Schumann hadoriginally suggested. As he told Clara, he had imagined, as he w rote this music, funeralprocessions, coffins, and unhappy, distraught figures. He thought of the work as a FuneralFantasy, and proposed the titles Trauerzug,Funeral Procession, Kuriose Gesellschaft,Strange Company, Nachtliches Gelager, NightRevels, and Rundgesang mit Solostimmen,Round with Solos. Clara sensibly advised him to omit anything of the kind, leaving onlythe present general title, quite enoughfor a contemporary audience. This title is, presumably, derived from the work ofGespenster Hoffmann, Ghost Hoffmann, a writer who fascinated Schumann and many others ofhis generation. The work opens with mysterious harmonic ambiguity, its slow first piecefollowed by an emphatic livelier second, in an F major that again opens in ambiguity. Therevels of the third piece lead to a brief introduction and simpler movement in F major,with an F minor central section.
Schumann dedicated his Arabeske,Opus 18, to the wife of Major Anton Serre, who, with her husband, did much toencourage the composer in his engagement to Clara Wieck. It was written in 1838 and is inthe form of a rondo, with two minor key episodes, the first in E minor and the second in Aminor, around which the principal C major theme re-appears. Schumann composed the work inVienna, with his Blumenst??ck, Opus 19 and Humoreske, Opus 20, and all three pieces seemed, asSchumann himself said, likely to please the women of Vienna.
A prize-winner on no less than seventeen occasions ininternational competitions, the young German pianist Bernd Glemser was born in D??rbheirnand was still a pupil of Vitalij Margulis when he was appointed professor at theSaarbr??cken Musikhochschule, in succession to Andor Foldes, himself the successor ofWalter Gieseking. In 1992 he won the Andor Foldes Prize and in 1993 the first EuropeanPianists' Prize. With a wide repertoire ranging from the Baroque