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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUMANN, R.: Kreisleriana / Waldszenen / Blumenstuck
CD Review (UK)
"poetically sensitive readings"
"His Schumann, of great stylistic and technical integrity"
Schumann (1810 -1856) Kreisleriana, Op. 16
Neun Klavierstucke, Op. 82 (Forest Scenes: Nine Piano Pieces)
son of a writer and publisher, Robert Schumann, in common with a number of other composers
of his generation, had marked literary proclivities. As a musician he must initially have
seemed 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's
death, to allow him to give up university studies to concentrate on music, but his
unwillingness 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 contemplated
career as a concert pianist impossible. His marriage to the pianist Clara Wieck, his
former teacher's favourite daughter, came about in 1840, but only after prolonged
litigation with his future father-in-law. An uneasy decade in which he turned from writing
piano music to compositions generally on a larger scale led to an appointment as director
of music in Düsseldorf, where he succumbed, in 1854, to final insanity. He died in 1856.
writer and composer E. T. A. Hoffmann exercised a considerable influence over Schumann. In
Kreisleriana, a work completed in 1838 and
dedicated on publication to Chopin, he pays tribute to Hoffmann and the character
Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler used by Hoffmann to express some of his own ideas about
the conflict between artist and Philistine society. Writing to Clara, Schumann tells her
that the new work is one in which she and one of her ideas plays the main part; it is to
be dedicated to her and to no one else and as she recognizes herself in it, she may smile
fondly. Any association between Clara Wieck and Kreisler could hardly be flattering.
Hoffmann's Kreisleriana uses as its central
character a mad musician; his original title, indeed, had been Lucid Intervals of an Insane Musician. Schumann, in
the eight short pieces that make up his Kreisleriana,
expresses varying moods, starting with an agitated D minor, followed by an expressive B
flat major piece that includes two contrasted Intermezzi. The first mood returns in a
stormy G minor, succeeded by a gentler interlude that serves to introduce an energetic G
minor episode. The sixth piece, in a tranquil B flat major gives way to a stormy C minor
seventh, with its own interlude of counterpoint, relaxing finally as it moves towards the
concluding G minor scherzando. Kreisleriana
was revised by the composer in 1850.
is a very different work. Written in 1839 in Vienna, where Schumann was exploring the
possibilities for publication of his music review the Neue
Zeitung für Musik, it originally bore the title Guirlande and is, in effect, a garland of musical
flowers, little pieces, as he described them in a letter to Clara, prettily put together.
In the key of D flat major, Blumenstück is
in a series of episodes, of which the second, itself varied in key and mood, forms a
the work of 1848 and 1849, towards the end of the period the Schumanns, with their growing
family, spent in Dresden. The years were disturbed by political events and an uprising
against the King that forced Schumann himself to take temporary refuge outside the city
and Wagner, who had sided with the revolutionaries, to make his escape to Switzerland. Now
in the eighth year of their marriage, Clara was pregnant with their sixth child, and
Schumann was again haunted by the black bats of depression. The nine Forest Scenes start
with 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 its
head an eerie poem by Friedrich Hebbel:
Blumen, so hoch sie wachsen,
blaß hier, wie der Tod;
eine in der Mitte
da im dunkeln Rot.
hat es nicht von der Sonne:
traf sie deren Glut;
hat es von der Erde,
die trank Menschenblut.
flowers, so high they grow,
pale here, like death;
one in the middle
there in dark red.
Friendly Landscape lightens the atmosphere,
with a pause at a Wayside Inn, a Prophetic Bird, Hunting Song and final Departure.
Austrian pianist Paul Gulda was born in Vienna in 1961 and had his first piano lessons
from 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 United
States, where he participated in the Marlboro Festival. He began his concert career in a
piano 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 United
States, South America and Japan. He has appeared as a soloist on a number of occasions
with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, with which he made his Salzburg Festival début in
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