SCHUMANN, R.: Works for Oboe and Piano (Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando/ Jozsef Kiss) (Naxos: 8.550599)
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Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Works for Oboe and Piano
Five Folk-Song Pieces, Op. 102
Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73
Three Romances, Op. 94
Sonata in A Minor, Op. 105
Robert Schumann must seem in many waystypical of the age in which he lived, combining a number of the principal characteristicsof Romanticism in his music and in his life. Born in Zwickau in 1810, the son of abookseller, publisher and writer, he showed an early interest in literature and later madea name for himself as a writer and editor of the NeueZeitschrift f??r Musik, a journal launched in 1834. After a period atuniversity to satisfy the ambitions of his widowed mother, but still showing the wideinterests of a dilettante, Schumann was able to turn more fully to music under the tuitionof Friedrich Wieck, a famous teacher, whose energies had been largely directed towards thetraining of his beloved daughter Clara, a pianist of prodigious early talent.
Schumann's own ambitions as a pianistwere to be frustrated by a weakness of the fingers, the result, it is supposed, of mercurytreatment for syphilis, which he perhaps had contracted from a servant-girl in Wieck'semployment. Nevertheless he wrote a great deal of music for the piano during the 1830s,much of it in the form of shorter genre pieces, often enough with some extra- musical,literary or autobiographical association. The end of the decade brought a prolongedquarrel with Wieck, who did his utmost, through the courts, to prevent his daughter frommarrying Schumann, bringing in support evidence of the latter's allegedly dissolute way oflife. He might have considered, too, a certain mental instability, perhaps in partinherited, which brought periods of intense depression.
In 1840 Schumann and Clara married,with the permission of the court. The year brought the composition of a large number ofsongs and was followed by a period during which Clara encouraged her husband to tacklelarger forms of orchestral music, while both of them had to make adjustments in their ownlives to accommodate their differing professional requirements and the birth of children.
A relatively short period in Leipzig was followed, in 1844, by residence in Dresden, whereWagner was now installed at the Court Theatre, his conversation causing Schumann to retireearly to bed with a headache. In 1850 the couple moved to D??sseldorf, where Schumann hadbeen appointed director of music, a fact that contributed to his suicidal depression andfinal break-down in 1854, leading to his death in the asylum at Endenich two years later.
The FivePieces in Folk-Song Style, Opus 102, were written in 1849 for cello or violinand piano and were published two years later. Strangely the disturbing political events inthat year in Dresden, which had forced Wagner to make his escape in disguise, seem to havebrought Schumann a surge of inspiration, leading him to describe the year as his mostproductive. The pieces are true to their title, the first of them, Vanitas vanitatum, making in its title a whimsicalreference to scripture. The gentle second piece leads to a pastoral third and a forthrightfourth. The group ends with an element of drama, The Fantasiest??cke,Opus 73, originally Soireest??cke, werewritten in the same year, for clarinet and piano, with the option of violin or cello. Theevocative and expressive opening piece, a song in all but name, is followed by the busypiano accompaniment of the second and the energetic third.
Schumann wrote the three Romances, Opus 94, specifically for oboe and piano,but again allowed alternative instrumentation, for violin or clarinet and piano. They showonce again remarkable master of small forms of this kind, of the handling of piano andsolo instrument and of the projection of a moving and inimitable lyrical quality. As sooften it is not difficult to imagine some literary or narrative basis for these pieces.
The Romances represent Schumann's furtherexperiment with various tone-colours, exemplified in the Adagio and Allegro, Opus 70, originally for Frenchhorn and piano and once more written in 1849. Again the composer offers alternativeinstrumentation, suggesting the use of violin or cello, implying yet again the absolutenature of these compositions as far as instrumentation is concerned.
In 1851 Schumann wrote two of histhree violin sonatas. The first of these, the Sonata inA minor, Opus 105, was written in the space of four days in September, when, ashe confided to a former student, he was very angry with some people. D??sseldorf hadbrought him considerable dissatisfaction, echoed by his employers on the city council andthe musicians of the orchestra. He himself declared himself unhappy with the first of theviolin sonatas, giving this as his reason for writing a second shortly afterwards, andtackling a third, to be completed in 1853. With the necessary changes of register andoccasionally of lay-out, the sonata makes an interesting addition to possible oboerepertoire. The expressive first movement leads to an Allegretto second movement in Fmajor, very much in the style of vignettes of the shorter pieces of the period. Theprincipal material of the movement consists of two contrasted elements, with anintervening episode in the minor. The energetic final movement returns to the originalkey, ominously at first, but leading to a relaxation into the key of E major and brieflyagain into A major, before a dramatic reference to the opening of the first movement and astrong conclusion.
Joszef Kiss, oboe
Jozsef Kiss was born in Satoraljaujhely in 1961 and studiedin Budapest, before joining the Budapest Symphony Orchestra in 1982. He remains aprincipal oboist in the orchestra and assistant professor of oboe at the Ferenc LisztAcademy of Music. In 1984 he won the bronze medal at the Toulon International OboeCompetition and four years later the wind-players' prize of the Hungarian Radio.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in southHungary, in 1952. He started to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at theFerenc Liszt Academy of Music under Katalin Nemes and Pal Kadosa, becoming assistant tothe latter on his graduation in 1974. Jando has won a number of piano competitions inHungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a firstprize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977.
In addition to his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern andWestern Europe, in Canada and in Japan. He has recorded all Mozart's piano concertos andsonatas for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg andSchumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second concerto
and Paganini Rhapsody and the complete pianosonatas of Beethoven.