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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUMANN, Camillo: Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 / 2 Konzertstucke (Kliegel, Piemontesi)
Chamber music occupies the largest part of Camillo Schumann’s extensive compositional output, his admiration of Brahms, Liszt and Rachmaninov evident at every turn. The cello sonatas and concert pieces on this disc also demonstrate Schumann’s own distinctive melodic gifts, his virtuosic writing for the piano and his emotional intensity. The fire and energy, mercurial instrumental interplay and arching lyricism of his music are masterfully handled by the internationally renowned cellist Maria Kliegel in partnership with pianist Francesco Piemontesi, who was recently selected as a BBC New Generation Artist.
Camillo Schumann (1872–1946)
Cello Sonata No. 1, Op. 59 • Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 99 • Konzertstücke, Op. 20
Camillo Schumann was born on 10 March 1872 in Königstein, Saxony, the son of Clemens Schumann (1839–1918) the town’s director of music. From an early age he mastered several instruments and made a great contribution to the family’s music-making. When he was twelve years old he became conductor of a local wind group, a traditional Turmblasen ensemble which played from the tower of the town church. In 1889 he entered the Leipzig Conservatoire and received his basic education, until 1893. His teachers were the composer Carl Reinecke, the music-theorist Salomon Jadassohn, the piano professor Bruno Zwintscher and the organist Paul Homeyer. In 1894/5 he attended the High School for Music in Berlin, studied with Woldemar Bargiel and Robert Radecke and gained his degree with honours. On 1 October 1896 he was appointed to the city church of St George in Eisenach and to the Wartburg chapel. There Schumann developed his talent to the maximum. He performed almost the whole canon of organ works from Gabrieli to Reger and specialised particularly in the music of (J.S.) Bach. Alongside the music of Bach and Handel, who were his favourites, he frequently included in his organ recitals works by Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Liszt, Piutti, Merkel and Samuel de Lange, who dedicated his first organ sonata to him. It was in Eisenach too that most of the first performances of his own works took place. With his brother Georg he championed especially the construction of a large new Jehmlich organ as well as the restoration of Bach’s house in the town.
As pianist, organist and leader of the Eisenach Trio Association he was widely regarded as an acclaimed interpreter and virtuoso, especially in performances of his own works. Musical personalities such as Hermann Kretzschmar, Wilhelm Berger, Paul Claussnitzer, Alfred Lorenz and Arnold Schering all paid tribute to his interpretative and compositional achievements. Even Anton Rubinstein commented on his remarkable accomplishments.
Schumann’s achievements were honoured with the conferring on him of the title Grand Ducal Music Director and Court Organist of Saxony. In 1911 he became a member of the collective of experts of the Thuringian States for works of musical art in Weimar. He was given a lectureship in organ and composition at the Brill Conservatory in Eisenach. In 1914 he moved to Bad Gottleuba and devoted himself entirely to composition. The hardships of the war and post-war period brought about increasing financial difficulties for Schumann, especially as he adhered to his customary way of composing and ignored completely the musical trends of that time, which made it difficult to get his most recent works published. Yet he was not completely forgotten in his homeland. Bowing to necessity, he accepted further church music duties in Markersbach (1921–1946) and in Langenhennersdorf (1928–1941). Undeterred, he continued to compose and to give concerts as an organ soloist in Dresden, Pirna and Königstein and his contribution to the local cultural scene was far-reaching. Camillo Schumann died on 29 December 1946 in Bad Gottleuba, where he was also laid to rest. His grave is still preserved today.
Camillo Schumann’s work encompasses almost all musical genres. Over three hundred compositions have been listed, including a variety of chamber music works, piano works, cantatas with organ or orchestra, works for harmonium and a large body of pieces for organ. Chamber music occupies the biggest part of Schumann’s output. He wrote three piano trios, five sonatas for piano and violin, three cello sonatas, two horn sonatas, two clarinet sonatas, two oboe sonatas, a flute sonata and many other compositions for various instrumental combinations. Almost all of these works were never published and exist only in manuscript. His tonal language was much influenced by the sound-world of Brahms as well as by the great late-romantic school of Liszt, while the immense power and virtuosity of his piano-writing owes much to Rachmaninov. The wonderfully distinctive ease of his melodic writing, particularly in his slow movements, bears witness to a consummate composer.
I should like to mention at this point that almost the complete output of Camillo Schumann is now available. This is due above all to the efforts of Harald Schurz, who founded the Königstein Music Archive in 1954 and whom I came to know just two years before his death. Schurz worked tirelessly and assembled jottings, transcripts and everything to do with the musical life of Königstein.
The collection now comprises over five hundred compositions, including the complete works of Camillo Schumann. It also contains some three thousand items of documentary evidence, letters, pictures, reviews and so on, as well as roughly five hundred books and pamphlets and original documents by Julius Otto, Richard Wagner, Camillo Schumann and Shostakovich. It is thanks to the love and devotion shown by Harald Schurz that these works are available today. In his time there were many concerts featuring works by Camillo Schumann so it is also to Schurz’s credit that he championed the wider dissemination of these works. After his death, the complete collection was transferred to a community of heirs, with whom I and Bettina Sachse, one of the daughters, with whom I have been closely, and happily, associated for some time. The entire collection is now in the Chief Saxon State Archives in Dresden and has been re-catalogued.
The Cello Sonata No. 1, Op. 59, is a bravura work par excellence. The three-movement work is wild and passionate, while the last movement is even more highly dramatic. Here Schumann shows himself to be a master of symphonic form, while the subject-matter is so concentrated that the musical material of both instruments undergoes the same development. The highly-virtuosic technique which this work demands invests the music with huge character and wit. In this work Camillo Schumann comes close to the tonal language of the sound-world of Liszt, whose music is also characterized by tremendous virtuosity. All three of Camillo Schumann’s Cello Sonatas are written for ‘Piano and Violoncello’ so consequently the piano tends to dominate. They are second to none when compared with the works of his contemporaries and have earned unbiased respect and recognition in the concert world.
The large-scale Cello Sonata No. 2 in C minor, Op. 99, testifies to the enormous influence of Johannes Brahms. This influence can be felt in many of Schumann’s works but it is particularly marked in this sonata, above all when compared with the cello sonatas of Brahms. What we have here is an intensely elegiac musical composition, full of poetry and with a deep spiritual life. It is not simply a virtuoso work, more one of drama, with a deep, serious character. The structure of the work is one of Schumann’s most complex. The varied thematic and motivic developments are passed between the instruments, undergo climaxes and moments of repose, while their timbres are in a constant state of flux. This work is almost orchestral in its conception, and is masterly in its construction. In contrast to all of Schumann’s other works its tone-colours are very dark, at times even sombre. He wrote the work in 1932, at a time when the privations of the post-war period affected him deeply. It is a superb example of a brilliantly-achieved compositional style and, in its world of feeling, is indescribably intense: it is a masterwork of prodigious quality.
The two Concert Pieces, Op. 20, date from around 1900 and are called Romanze and Mazurka. Strictly speaking such titles are associated with modest and formal smaller-scale works. But what makes these works genuine concert pieces is the special and distinctive treatment of the solo parts. Schumann creates real concert movements, so that one could almost consider them to be the second and third movements of a solo concerto. The solo cello writing is very concertante in style and both pieces extend the bounds of their respective forms. In Schumann’s work-catalogue there are many such concert pieces, written for the most diverse combinations and some even for piano solo. In the course of the Romanze the simple theme is often supported by a varied piano accompaniment so that the tone-quality keeps changing. The piece is interrupted by a highly-virtuosic middle section in which the cello duly comes to the fore. In the Tempo risoluto ed energico section huge chords, double-stoppings and rapid semiquavers prevail, all of which place great demands on the performers.
The Mazurka, marked animato, is virtuoso in character throughout. This is a piece full of fire and energy. Breathtaking solo passages for the cello turn this dance into a barnstorming concert-piece: it could almost have been written for the concert-stage.
English version by David Stevens
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