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Robert Schumann

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

April 21

Canada discovers an Italian talent

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discFrom the Lebrecht Album of the Week: Do not be put off by the cover, which shows two Victorians of different gender having a pre-Raphaelite snog. What they look like post-Raphael is left to the imagination, as is any thematic connection between Gilbert Baldry’s The Kiss and a set of Schumann pieces that evoke male friendships. Not long ago, when record companies employed picture researchers, their covers bore some relevance to the music inside. These days, the images seem to be picked by a computer linked to the Amazon sales chart. Do not be put off either by the coupling of Schumann with a record newbie whose name you may not recognise… Read on here. And here. And here.

My Classical Notes

April 23

April 23: Andreas Haefliger Performs in London

Andreas Haefliger performs at Wigmore Hall on April 23: Address: Wigmore Hall 36 Wigmore Street London W1U 2BP Tickets: Telephone:+44 (0)20 7935 2141 Date: 23 April 2017 Program: The pianist performs: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No 10 In G No 2 and Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Berio’s Erdenklavier, Wasserklavier, Luftklavier and Feuerklavier Schumann’s Fantasie In C.




Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

April 22

Can you help us with some Schumann, please?

An unusual request from our string quartet diarist, Anthea Kreston: I need your help. Is anyone good at musical detective work? I am putting out a crowdsourcing request. I read in the Steinhardt book, “Indivisible by Four” that Schumann conceived, at one point, of his three quartets as something that could be played in a row, that they could connect. Steinhardt also says that Schumann actually wrote bridge music to be played between the works, so they could be played without pause, and that he later destroyed this music. I nearly flipped out. We have been playing the Schumann 3 for many months now, and Schumann 2 for the past month. This week we started on Schumann 1. For the first time, last week, we put 2 Schumanns together in one program, and for me, there was magical almost-symmetry, a way in which they informed one another – how some of his thoughts, which can often feel incomplete or inconclusive, had a corresponding answer in the other quartet. These three quartets were written between June 4 and 22, 1842 – a span of less than three weeks, after a period in which he was unable to write because of a depressive episode. How could they not be conceived of as a whole – considering the short time in which they were composed? They must belong to one another – overlaying pieces of the same puzzle, each piece only complete when seen through the lenses of the others. He presented them as a birthday present to Clara – it is amazing to think of them so young – she turned 23 in September of 1842. Just because quartets up until this time had been packaged in neat, easy-to-digest 35-50 minute portions, doesn’t mean that a 2 hour piece of music (including connecting music) couldn’t be thought of, especially by someone as unique as Schumann. Wouldn’t it be magical to hear what these three works would sound like, all together, and where is that missing music? Is there a sketch, mention in a letter – something from Clara, Robert or even Johannes – more information out there? If anything exists, can it be reconstructed? Or a new commission(s?) be made for bridge music? If it were any other composer (the three Brahms quartets, for example), I don’t think I would be so keen – so certain that this could be pure magic. But – the combination of lightness and fantasy, interchanged with heavy, funny German dances and deep, throbbing and sweeping slow movements – these pieces read like novels. And together – a triptych. It could be transformative. When I read about this in Arnold Steinhardt’s book, I was sitting on a plane, heading to London. I was floored. As a student at Curtis, I worked with Mr. Steinhardt, but not enough or probably well enough for him to remember who I was, or to keep in contact. How to reach him – I needed more information. So – I Messengered Ida Kavafian, my “Violin Mom” – a teacher who embodied, for me, the perfect mix of inspiration, technical advice, and life lessons. And, of course, a deep dedication to all of her students – warmth and endless humor and encouragement. To my delight, within the next 2 hours, these messages, below. The first one sent backstage from Wigmore – the final one backstage after the concert. “Ida! I just read something from Steinhardt in “The Art of Quartet Playing” where he talks about a destroyed copy of Schumann – bridge music between the quartets (so they could be played all together). Do you know anything about this? If not, do you see Mr. Steinhardt around and can you ask? I am obsessed.” “HAHAHAHAHA!!! I’m sitting with him in auditions at Curtis. More later.” “Wow! You shouldn’t be texting! Pay attention to those Paganini caprices!” “Hahaha – intermission Wigmore!” “So at first he’s made this cute comment that “well, she knows just about as much as I know about it”. But then he described how in the romantic era often people would improvise little tiny pieces/links between pieces. Apparently Josef Hoffman did that when he played recitals at Curtis and probably elsewhere. Apparently Schumann wrote some of these links between the first and second and then the second and third quartets but then he thought better of it. Arnold doesn’t know if they still exist. How was your concert? I used to love playing at Wigmore!!!!” “Quartet is fun! I am always wanting to play on the g string, and they complain a little about it, but other than that all is well! Please tell Mr. Steinhardt thank-you – I will try to keep researching and let you know if I find anything. My biggest hugs to my favorite teacher“ “Hugs and kisses right back! And apologies for telling you to play on the G string too much…” Followed by a emoji of a bunny and hamster high-fiving with 8th notes floating around So – Slipped Disc readers – if you are so inclined, can you help me? There must be some evidence somewhere – a mention of a house concert, letter, talk from musicians, a diary, sketch, something in a library or collection. I have never asked for your help before, but now is the time! Together we could discover something incredible. You can email me at Geigeberlin@yahoo.com .

Classical iconoclast

April 22

Formula saves the BBC Proms !

Formula saves the BBC Proms 2017!  This may be the beginning of the end for Sir Henry Wood's dreams of the Proms as serious music. Fortunately The Formula, perfected by much-maligned Roger Wright, is strong enough to withstand the anti-music agendas of the suits and robots who now run the Proms.  Shame on those who rely on formula instead of talent, but in dire straits, autopilot can save things from falling apart.  So, sift through the detritus of gimmick and gameshow to find things worth saving   (Read here what I wrote about The Formula)   Danierl Barenboim is a Proms perennial, for good reason, so we can rely on his two Elgar Proms (16 and 17 July) especially the Sunday one which features a new work by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Deep Time, which at 25 minutes should be substantial  Pascal Dusapin's Outscape on 19/7, 28 minutes, also substantial Anotherr "regular" Proms opera, Fidelio on 21/7, with a superlative cast headed by Stuart Skelton and Ricarda Merbeth, tho' Juanjo Mena conducts  Ilan Volkov conducts Julian Anderson's new Piano Concerto on 26/7 , tho's the rest of the programme, though good isn't neccesarily Volkov's forte  On 29/7 Mark Wigglesworth conducts David Sawer's The Greatest Happiness Principle  On 31/7, Monteverdi Vespers with French baroque specialists Pygmalion   On 1/8, William Christie conducts the OAE in Handel Israel in Egypt and on 2/8, John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists do Bach and my beloved Heinrich Schütz.  On 8/8 Gardiner returns with Berlioz The Damnation of Faust, with Michael Spyres. First of this year's four Mahlers is Mahler's Tenth (Cooke) with  Thomas Dausgaard and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra  Robin Ticciati, back with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on 15/8 with an interesting pairing, Thomas Larcher Nocturne-Insomnia with Schumann Symphony no 2.   Throughout this season, there are odd mismatches between repertoire and performers, good conductors doing routine material, less good conductors doing safe and indestructable. Fortunately, baroque and specialist  music seem immune.  See above ! and also the Prom featuring Lalo, Délibes and Saint-Saëns with François Xavier-Roth and Les Siècles on 16/8   Perhaps these Proms attract  audiences who care what they're listening to  Schoenberg's Gurrelieder on 19/8 with Simon Rattle, whose recording many years back remains a classic but may not be known to whoever described the piece in the programme "Gurrelieder is Schoenberg’s Tristan and Isolde, an opulent, late-Romantic giant."  Possibly the same folk who dreamed up the tag "Reformation Day" like Nigel Faarage's "Independence Day" Nothing in life is that simplistic  The music's OK, but notn the marketing. Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC SO in Elgar Symphony no 3 (Anthony Payne) on 22/8   Potentially this will be even bigger than the Barenboim Elgar symphonies, since Oramo is particularly good with this symphony, which may not be as high profile but is certainly highly regarded by those who love Elgar   On 26/8, Jakub Hrůša conducts the BBC SO in an extremely well chosen programme of Suk, Smetana, Martinů, Janáček and Dvorák   More BBCSO on 31/8 when Semyon Bychkov conducts a Russian programme  Marketing guff seems to make a big deal of national stereotypes, which is short sighted  These programmes cohere musically, but that's perhaps too much to expect from the new Proms mindset On 1/9,  Daniele Gatti conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Bruckner and Wolfgang Rihm  An odd pairing but one which will come off well since these musicians know what they're doing They are back again on 2/9 with  Haydn "The Bear" and Mahler Fourth  which isn't "sunny" or "song-filled".  It's Mahler,  not a musical.  Gergiev brings the Mariinsky on 3/9 with Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich Symphony no 5.  Another huge highlight on 7/9 : The Wiener Philharmoniker, with Daniel Harding in Mahler Symphony no 6 - so powerful that nothing else needs to be added to sugar the pill   For me, and for many others, that will be the real :Last Night of the Proms   Party time the next day, with Nina Stemme as star guest     



Robert Schumann
(1810 – 1856)

Robert Schumann (8 June 1810 - 29 July 1856) was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law to return to music, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He had been assured by his teacher, Friedrich Wieck, that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury caused by a device he created with the false belief that it would help increase the size of his hands prevented that. One of the most promising careers as a pianist had thus come to an end. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing. Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; an opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. His writings about music appeared mostly in the New Journal for Music, a Leipzig-based publication which he jointly founded. In 1840, Schumann married pianist Clara Wieck when she was of age, following a long and acrimonious legal battle with her father, his former teacher, to gain his approval of the match. Clara also composed music and had a considerable concert career. For the last two years of his life, after an attempted suicide, Schumann was confined to a mental institution, at his own request.



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