Tuesday, October 25, 2016
HRobert Schumann composed some amazing music. Not only four wonderful symphonies, but also chamber music, sonatas, piano pieces, music for violin, Viola, and more. Today I want to tell you about his Lieder. Specifically his song cycle called Dichterliebe, German for Poet’s Love. Schumann: Dichterliebe & Selected Songs Schumann: Dichterliebe, Op. 48 Lieder (5), Op. 40 Der arme Peter, Op. 53 No. 3 Abends am Strand, Op. 45 No. 3 Dein Angesicht, Op. 127 No. 2 Lehn deine Wang’ Op. 142 No. 2 Es leuchtet meine Liebe, Op. 127 No. 3 Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Op. 142 No. 4 Belsazar, Op. 57 Tragödie Op. 64 No. 3 All performed by Mauro Peter (tenor), with Helmut Deutsch (piano) Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, the young tenor Mauro Peter studied in Munich/Germany. He was winner of the first prize and the audience award at the 2012 International Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau. He had a sensational debut in 2012 with Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, accompanied by Helmut Deutsch, at the Schubertiade in Schwarzenberg. From that moment on Mauro Peter has been a regular guest at international concert halls and opera houses. Helmut Deutsch is one of the most sought-after pianists for chamber music and vocal accompaniment. He studied piano, composition, and musicology at the Vienna Music Academy, where he was awarded the Vienna Composition Prize. On this CD they join together to record ‘A Poet’s Love’ and selected music of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). Here’s is Mauro Peter, singing the music of Franz Schubert:
Matthias Goerne and Christoph Ecshenbach , Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Lieder, from Harmonia Mundi, is an extremely welcome release, since Goerne has.been singing these songs in recital for 20 years, so distinctively that they have become his emblem, so to speak. Now, at last a performance has been preserved for posterity. "Brahms free of the thick veneer of varnish", I wrote about Goerne's first Vier ernste ernste Gesänge at the Wigmore Hall. When he wrote these last songs, Brahms was facing death but looking back on North German tradition, that he had left behind decades before, but also by extension to the defiant spirit of the Reformation. Like Ein deutsches Requiem, that in itself, in pious, obedient Catholic Austria, suggests rugged independence of spirit. There is no heavenly afterlife in Vier ernste Gesänge. These aren't last songs, either, but specifically "serious". Thus the significance of the piano part in Vier ernste Gesänge : two performers alone against the world. Brahms and Clara Schumann, perhaps, both pianists looking back and fearlessly ahead. Christoph Eschenbach and Goerne are an ideal partnership. They've worked together for years and both approach the work with uncompromising emotional directness. Eschenbach's introduction is firm, and resolute. "Den es gehet dem Menschen wie dem Vieh, wie dies stirbt, so stirbt er auch". Eschenbach shapes the lines around "Es fährt alles am einen Ort", so they fly turbulently upwards, as if propelled by wind : for we are dust, returning to dust. No Biedermeier sentimentality, but quiet dignity. A strident chord cuts the song off abruptly. You don't mess with Death. Then a softer, more reflective mood. "Ich wandte mich und sah an alle", reflecting on suffering and the bitterness of life. Goerne sings such compassion that his voice conveys both sympathy and protest. For what is the human condition if the dead are better off than those yet to experience evils of the world ? "O Tod, o Tod, wie bitter bitter, wie bitter bist du" sings Goerne, as if he were addressing Death man to man, each "wie bitter" beautiful shaped, like a genuine, personal rebuke. Eschenbach plays the transition firmly, but sensitively, emphasizing the growing resolve in Goerne';s voice. This is a transit. "O Tod, o Tod " sings Goerne, breathing warmth into the "wie wohl" which follows. "Wie wohl tust du". Thus the affirmative resolution of the last song and its vigorous mood. The gifts of many tongues, of prophecy and even of faith, are nothing without love. Then the glorious line "Wir sehen jetzt durch einen Speigel", when Goerne's voice rises, extraordinarily clearly and bright for a baritone happiest in the lower range, as if lit from within with inner strength. Eschenbach's piano sings along. "Nun aber bleibet Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, diese drei: aber ist die Liebe ist die größte unter ihnen" Not the glories of the world, nor status, but love, to which all can aspire. Goerne's non-strident, purposeful expressiveness is, like love, both simple and extremely perceptive. Hugo Wolf, who eked a subsistence from music journalism, detested Brahms. "The true test of a composer", he wrote, "is this : Can he exult? Wagner can exult, Brahms cannot ".What a pity Wolf hadn't heard Goerne and Eschenbach, who demonstrate that pietist purity is a form of exultation, and that Brahms can exult very well, without shouting. These Vier ernste Gesänge will make this recording a must, but so too will be the superb performances of Brahms' nine Lieder und Gesänge op 32 (1864) to texts by Karl August Graf von Platen and Georg Freidrich Daumer, poets with whom Brahms had great affinity, Excellent booklet notes, by Roman Hinke which explain how the Platen and Daumer songs "mark nothing less than the entry into a new, surprisingly cryptic and conflict-ridden world ....what might have led Brahms to turn to Platen's poetic existentialism, to take his dark fantasies of the other side as the starting point of a disturbing sequence of songs". In "Wie rafft' ich mich auf", the poet leaps up in the middle of the night, wandering through the silent city. The lines "in die Nacht" repeat, obsessively, The stars look down, accusingly : "how have you spent your life?" they seem to ask. The following six songs reiterate this questions. Brahms chose his texts well and his settings give further coherence to the set. A river flows past, swiftly, love ends. From trauma to tenderness: the three Daumer songs are gentler, closer to cosy, popular misconceptions of Brahms. Lovely piano melodies, but the last song Wie bist du, meine Königen" reaches an altogether more refined level of sophistication. Goerne sings the refrain "Wonnevoll, wonnervoll" (blissful, blissful) with such grace that it feels like a moment of rapture, pulling the whole group of songs together as an integrated cycle. Again, Goerne and Eschenbach prove that Brahms exults ! Heinrich Heine, with his acidic irony, might not seem natural Brahms territory, but the Lieder nach Gedicten von Heinrich Heine op 85 (1878) are lovely. Sommerabend and Mondenschein make an exquisite pair. Not many concert pianists (or conductors) have the ability to accompany song with the sensitive support a singer needs. With Eschenbach, the goal is music, not showmanship, art, not ego. Goerne can therefore sing with pointed understatement, knowing that he and Eschennbach are on the same page, literally. The Heine set ends with Meerfahrt, in which the lovers drift in a little boat, past a ghostly island, from which sweet music resounds. They float past "Trostlos auf weitem Meer". Are they lost, or have they escaped what might be hidden in the mists ? Brahms isn't letting on, but we don't mind as we drift on, to the sound of oars and waves.
St John the Evangelist, Oxford The great recitalist, with pianist Christoph Schnackertz, brought compelling weight to Oxford Lieder festival’s demanding Schumann ProjectAfter the hugely ambitious and successful sweep through all of Schubert’s songs in the 2014 Oxford Lieder festival, there is the Schumann Project this time – a complete survey of his works for solo voices, running through almost every concert.The festival now regularly attracts many of the world’s leading recitalists, and the peerless Christoph Prégardien seems to have become almost an annual visitor. The first half of his appearance with pianist Christoph Schnackertz this time was duly devoted to Schumann, with the Hans Christian Andersen songs Op 40 preceding the Heine Liederkreis Op 24. Every number became an object lesson in how a truly great Lieder singer makes the meaning and weight of each word matter, and how every fleck of emotion and colour can be conveyed in an utterly natural, confiding way. Continue reading...
The American pianist on composers and mortality, having two violinist parents, and his lack of coordination in all things not piano-relatedIn his Late Style series, which he is playing across the US, Italy, the Netherlands and in London – at Milton Court, Barbican on 8 November, returning next year – the American pianist Jonathan Biss, 36, explores the music Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann and Kurtág wrote near the end of their lives.Life can be short or long, death lingering or sudden. Is there any common thread in the music you’re playing in this three-concert series? Actually, it’s the lack of a common thread that really interests me. Playing these works, I feel clearly that these composers are moving in new directions late in life, but those directions vary enormously, composer to composer. Schubert, who died at the impossibly young age of 31, faced mortality with a feverish intensity. In contrast, Mozart, who was almost as young, brought an almost naive but profound simplicity to his late works – think of the Clarinet Concerto, or the Clarinet Quintet. Bach, 65 when he died, became more abstract and austere – The Art of the Fugue is so extreme in that way. And Elgar, writing his final works around the same age, though he lived on into his 70s, became incredibly emotionally expansive – in the Piano Quintet, the String Quartet, the Violin Sonata. Continue reading...
Semyon Bychkov's Tchaikovsky Project "Beloved Friend" continues this week at the Barbican Centre, London. It's an ambitious series connected to a series of recordings with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with concerts taking place oin London with the BBC SO and in New York with the New York Philharmonic, next year. The concerts (at least in London) were augmented with a play by Ronald Harwood on the relationship between Tchaikovsky and Madame von Meck, the "beloved friends" in question. Major publicity, too : flyers were distributed at the Royal Albert Hall during the Proms, almost guaranteed to get attention. So, why are so many tickets still unsold, even for Monday's concert at the Barbican ? Tchaikovsky should sell out, particularly with upmarket stars like Bychkov and Kirill Gerstein, and interesting programmes which lesser known but important choices like the original 1879 version of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no 2. Although the London music scene is unusually quiet at the moment there doesn't seem to have been much public reaction. Even Friday's concert with the Symphony Pathetique and Rachmaninov The Bells hasn't sold out. It doesn't make much sense, since the first concert, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 was pretty good. Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony op 58 is a huge beast, nearly an hour long, and full of dynamic full of extremes. Inspired by Byron's poem Manfred it tells of a hero confronting supernatural demonic forces in a cosmic struggle that takes place in the Alps. In Byron's time, the Alps symbolized danger, the vastness of nature dwarfing humankind. Schumann's Manfred is Romantic in the true, wild Germanic sense. Tchaikovsky, however. was Russian and a man of the theatre, so Bychkov's approach emphasized the expansiveness that gives the piece context. Bychkov's a great opera conductor, he knows how music can "speak"on its own terms. Bychov created the panoramic backdrop to the drama vividly : generous, sweeping lines suggesting limitless horizons. As the tempo quickened, the orchestra soared upward, : searching lines contrasting well with the sudden crashing climax with which the first movement ends. Perhaps this is the moment when Manfred meets his mysterious half sister Astarte. What is the nature of their relationship (bearing in mind Byron's unnatural relationship with his own half sister) ? And, why the mountains ? The second movement, marked vivace con spirito describes a mountain spirit, one of the elementals who haunt Alpine lore. They are fairies, but also signify danger, their elusiveness defying human control. Thus the high violin melody that flies above, and away, from the main orchestral foundation. . The third movement describes the mountain folk, who carve out marginal lives in harsh conditions, yet seem happy as they dance, presumably in pure, open air festivals. They're tough folk and down to earth, while Manfred, though a hero, is rather more quixotic. Like Byron himself, maybe, a towering figure but one with dark complexes. Tolling bells suggest danger. The music descends into a stranger mood, sounds crashing against each other as if the earth itself was imploding,"fire" pouring forth from the rapid rivulets of sound. Manfred fights off the evil spirits who tempt him, but chooses to die on his own terms. What might Tchaikovsky have made of this ? The finale was grand, the pace brisk, craggy peaks and descents sharply defined, dizzying figures suggesting turbulence. Not mountain breezes, but perhaps something more demonic. The organ underlined the cosmological nature of Manfred's predicament. Bychkov recently conducted a magnificent Strauss Alpine Symphony. Read my review here - Mordwand ! Bychkov's Manfred Symphony, like his Alpine Symphony were definitely not "tourist trail". Although the drama dissipates at the end of the symphony, textures are more refined, more esoteric, one feels that perhaps Manfred is entering a new frontier, beyond the ken of mankind. hence details, like the horn calling the hero on, and the dizzying upwards rush towards a serene conclusion that might suggest spiritual sublimation. This programme began with Kirill Gerstein and the Piano Concerto no 2, in the much longer original version, like Manfred, monumental in its traverse. Maybe audiences take Tchaikovsky - and Bychkov and the BBC SO - for granted and don't realize how much goes into performance at this level of excellence. things like this don't just "happen". So get to Monday's concert if you can, which features "Three faces of Tchaikovsky: the graceful, elegant Serenade with its stunning melodies; the single finished movement of the unfinished Third Piano Concerto, the composer’s last work; and the Dante-inspired tone-poem Francesca de Rimini with its portrayal of a forbidden love" to quote the Barbican ad, and Taneyev's Overture to Oresteia. Perhaps the most intriguing of all three concerts in Bychkov's Beloved Friends Tchaikovsky Project.
23 September 1963: The Guardian reports on the final of the first Leeds Pianoforte Competition, won by a local boy and, at 17, the youngest of all 94 competitorsDelight was exceeded only by surprise in Leeds at the victory in the International Piano Competition of a local boy, Michael Roll, who, at the age of 17, was the youngest of the 94 competitors accepted, and who, until this victory at Leeds, was not yet committed to a career as a pianist, but was intending to follow in his father’s footsteps as a doctor. Out of the 10 concertos which were the test-pieces for the third and final stage of the competition on Saturday night, he chose Schumann’s, and certainly made it the most rewarding musical experience of the evening, although it had already been played once in the programme by one of the other three finalists. It was a robust and animated performance, well shaped, with a splendid rhythmic impetus in all three movements, not at all easy to sustain in this work, as had conspicuously been demonstrated to the audience (and to the jury if they needed any reminder) by the earlier contestant, Armenta Adams (a young black woman aged 27 from New York), who had taken the first two movements both too slowly, and was in continual trouble with her scheme of tempi. She was more successful in the last movement, livelier and more stable, and was unlucky to forget her part. John Pritchard, conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, quickly got her re-started, and she finished well. Her final placing, fourth of the four finalists, would not have been any different even if she had not taken this fall. Continue reading...
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.
Great composers of classical music