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Robert Schumann

Friday, December 2, 2016


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

November 29

Mahler racks up record score

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discThe composer’s finished manuscript of the second symphony sold this morning at Sotheby’s for £3.9 million ($4.5), to which the buyer will have to add a premium of around 15%. The total paid was £4,546,250. This is by far the highest sum ever paid for a music manuscript. The previous record was held by a Schumann symphony, sold for £1.5 million in 1994. The Mahler score was owned by Gilbert Kaplan, a New York publisher who conducted the symphony many times around the world. It was sold to a phone bidder, presently unidentified.

Guardian

November 27

Henselt: Piano Works CD review – sends the senses reeling

Daniel Grimwood (piano) (Edition Peters)Hailed as the equal of Liszt and Chopin and dubbed “the hero of the pianoforte” by Schumann, the Bavarian Adolph von Henselt (1814-89) is all but forgotten today, but his virtuosic compositions have found a modern champion in British pianist Daniel Grimwood. Titanic variations, lilting waltzes, thundering impromptus and reflective nocturnes send the senses reeling in a blizzard of dazzling pianism, Grimwood admirably demonstrating why Henselt, who settled in St Petersburg, was considered the father of Russian pianism. All 78 minutes in one sitting can make you slightly dizzy, but this is a disc well worth exploring. The great Ballade, Op 31 in B flat major is a wonder and the Grand Valse, Op 30 in C sharp minor will leave you totally breathless. Continue reading...




My Classical Notes

November 25

Albrecht Mayer’s Oboe

I am very fond of music for wind instruments. There is some great music composed for the Oboe by many composers such as Mozart. And Albrecht Mayer has been playing principal Oboe for the Berlin Philharmonic for many years, as well. Now we have a new recording that features Mr. Mayer’s artistry. The album is called ‘Vocalise’, and the selections are as listed below: Bach, J S: Magnificat in D major, BWV243: Esurientes implevit bonis, arr. Andreas N. Tarkmann Sinfonia Varsovia Debussy: Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque), with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Fauré: Pavane, Op. 50, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Hahn, R: A Chloris, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Handel: Trio Sonata, HWV 393 in G minor, with Jakub Haufa (violin), and Monika Razynska (harpsichord) Lascia ch’io pianga (from Rinaldo), with the Sinfonia Varsovia Sarabande from Suite in D minor, HWV437 Solomon: Will the Sun Forget to Streak? Verdi prati (from Alcina) Humperdinck: Abendsegen ‘Abends will ich schlafen gehn’ (Hänsel und Gretel) Marcello, A: Adagio from Oboe Concerto in D minor, with the New Seasons Ensemble Marcello, B: Se morto mi brami Mozart: Ma che vi fece, o stelle…Sperai vicino il lido, K368, with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado conducting. Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte, with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Schumann: Romance in A major, Op. 94 No. 2, with Markus Becker (piano) Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Winter, RV297: Largo Weismann, J: Variations for oboe and piano, Op. 39: Var. IV – Lento, molto tranquillo, with Markus Becker (piano) All performed by Albrecht Mayer (oboe) Here is Mr. Mayer in the Oboe concerto by Richard Strauss:



Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

November 20

Live to teach, teach to live

Our diarist Anthea Kreston, violinist of the Artemis Quartet, just can’t get enough of sharing the skills – with anyone from three years up. What does a career in chamber music entail? Besides an intense and personal rehearsal schedule, it involves intricate, interwoven travel plans, publicity, and teaching. Top chamber ensembles (such as the Emerson Quartet) have busy and regular teaching careers, and to have a solid, contracted teaching position is a coveted opportunity. As a quartet, we teach at the University of the Arts in Berlin (where we each take responsibility for 8 groups, and share responsibility for an additional 8 “Master Groups”, which often travel from abroad for short periods of intense work with the quartet). In Brussels, we are the resident chamber music teachers at Chapelle Musicale Reine Elizabeth. It is here that I spent the better part of this week, while members of the quartet were off recording CD’s for upcoming projects. Chapelle holds a unique position in the world as an exclusive training ground for today’s top soloists and chamber ensembles. There are 6 master teachers – Artemis for chamber, Gary Hoffman cello, Louis Lortie piano, Augustin Dumay violin, José van Dam voice, and Miguel da Silva viola. 66 students from 20 countries live and work at the Chapelle – a series of buildings surrounded by woods, 30 minutes outside of Brussels. 270 concerts (guests and resident artists) are presented annually, and I was able to attend a concert of the fabulous Ebene Quartet this week. Students at Chapelle are the elite of tomorrow – and many already have international performing careers, recording contracts, and management. One of our quartets, the very young French quartet Arod , just swept the ARD in Munich – arguably the world’s most coveted chamber music prize. I am picked up by the driver at the airport – luggage carried and doors opened – and dropped at my 4 star hotel. Later in the day I arrive at Chapelle, greeted by the artistic staff and executive director. Our coaching sessions are in state-of-the-art concert spaces, and last for 4 hours per group, all in one chunk – a challenge for all of us for concentration and musical commitment. This time, I had the opportunity to work with the Busch Trio – 8 hours on the Beethoven Triple, which they are preparing for concerts beginning in one month (including Warsaw Symphony with American conductor Karina Canellakis). This young trio, made up of Israeli brothers on piano and cello, and a Dutch violinist, plays with passion, intelligence, and sweep. The luxury of 8 hours on one work allows us to dig deep – not only about the music, but also about inter-personal relationships, career advice, and even touring stories (we enjoyed reciting the “5th Concert Group Sworn Statement” together at the large communal students’ table over dinner). Another two trios were there this time as well – the French/American Trio Zadig (recently returned from successes at the Fischoff Competition) and a new group – Trio Sora – a young Latvian/French trio just getting their feet wet on the festival circuit. Zadig and I had worked together before – their raw energy and passion are easy to get swept away by – and our hours together slipped away before we knew it. Ian Barber, the American pianist of Zadig, sent me his thoughts today. “We heard about Chapelle from our friends in the Arod Quartet 4 days before the audition. We were all very nervous and had planned to be there early but went to the wrong train station and ended up arriving right before our audition time! Anyway, we felt a bit shaky for the audition but very happily we were accepted. It has definitely been one of the best things that has happened for our trio. The level at the Chapel is so high and we were very motivated to improve and play our best for the lessons for the Artemis. Our first lesson with Anthea was exactly the type of coaching we were needing. We were preparing for the Fischoff competition and she was tough! She really gave us the motivation and inspiration to work hard and do our best for the competition.” I had a fun time pulling my original parts from my library before flying to Brussels – 3 Haydn trios, the often overlooked Chausson, Schumann, Beethoven triple and Archduke, Piazzolla and a new work I did not know. I was able to share my experience and bowings/fingerings from Ida Kavafian and Isaac Stern, who I adore (their markings are often more dangerous and extremely creative). One accidental strength of the Artemis Quartet is that both violinists were members of successful piano trios – enabling us to slip easily between teaching trios and quartets. Because I will be returning in several weeks, I was able to give specific assignments (score study and recommended reading and listening) to the groups, and several will be sending videos of their progress for review in the gap between visits. But – I must say, that my favorite teaching here thus far has been starting two friends of my daughters – one age 3 and one age 5. To be able to join in the pure joy and spontaneity of discovery, aided by my extensive sticker collection, never fails to connect me with my first and deepest memories.

getClassical (Ilona Oltuski)

November 18

Collected Counsel – Steven Isserlis revisits Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians

Steven Isserlis meets the pearls of wisdom in Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians, originally meant to accompany the master’s renowned 1848 piano suite, Album for the Young, with directness and allure. Isserlis relates guidance from his vast experience as a performer, educator and writer/broadcaster, which, while closely based on Schumann’s precious aphorisms, adds his own didactic playfulness. His revised suggestions and bonus chapter, which outline his personal interpretations on Schumann’s original work in a light-hearted and humorous tone, avoid the trap of haughty weightiness while managing to address high-minded ideals with the seriousness of the matter at heart. With recommendations like the importance “to stay true to one’s convictions, courageous in facing adversity and to never lose the love for music itself,” Isserlis keeps the conversation simple, real and encouraging, counterbalancing much of the anxiety-provoking frenzy that generally dominates the competitive scenes typical of music institutions. With many contradicting opinions on the subject available, Isserlis does not underestimate the importance of putting things into perspective, especially when it comes to overzealous practice habits: “Genuine technical command allows us to play the music we’re performing without having to think about the [technical] difficulties; it gives us the freedom to listen to ourselves. The point of scales and exercises, ultimately, is to help our fingers/voices acquire the precision they need in order to produce the interpretation we hear in our heads/hearts.” With his don’ts striking wit more often than his dos, he may just prevent another generation’s disastrous misconstruction of the craft: “…Don’t turn your performance into a lecture-recital! How many times does one play Bach, for instance and we hear from their playing what they’ve learned about double-dotting, ornamentation, etc.; and we also hear that they know when the music is changing key, because they take time over every modulation. The music will modulate whether you point it out or not…Ideally there should be no sense that you’ve made decisions in advance – more the impression that you are (re)creating as you perform. That way, the music you play will always sound alive – and new.” Intrigued by the composer’s musical genius, Isserlis, an acclaimed British cellist, has devoted much of his illustrious career up to this point to Schumann’s oeuvre, making him a recipient of the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwieckau, where Schumann was born. The cellist’s chamber cycles have been staged internationally and include programs about varied aspects of the fascinating composer’s life and work, revealing a keen understanding and personal kinship to the fantastical world of the master’s imagination, musical idealism and purity. Especially noteworthy are Isserlis’ efforts in ‘recovering’ the masters’ lesser-known works as part of a vehement effort to promote Schumann. In 2010, Schumann’s bicentenary, he wrote Grammophone (with Philistines in mind): “Schumann’s music is curiously alive today. One cannot pigeonhole him (perhaps that’s why critics have difficulties); he is too experimental, too close to the edge of the known sound world. Harmonically, rhythmically, emotionally he is way ahead of his time – outside of time, in fact, looking simultaneously into the past and the future…In short, he is a genius, unlike any other, one who can lead us into worlds undreamed of by anyone else. Every time I work on his music (as I am now doing for my upcoming residence at the Cheltenham festival), I marvel afresh, not just at the power of his imagination, but also at the brilliance of his mind. It is so exciting to follow his thought patterns as he moulds formal conventions into new, half-hidden shapes: miracle after miracle,” he offers, explaining his ongoing fascination with Schumann, the man his work. “This bicentenary is the chance for more of us to engage with him (concert promoters, record companies and performers permitting). Far be it from me to be fanatical – but if you catch anyone being condescending about any aspect of Schumann’s music or personality this year, please feel free to gently, but firmly, shoot them. For their own good.” Isserlis’ examining of the master’s directions on how to implement artistic goals into routine principals could open up a slew of possible reflections on the creative process. He presents thoughtful critique on the role of the musician within society, the tradition of music education and the goal of music performance to a higher end, leaving room for a more in-depth evaluation of the creative experience of young musicians. While Isserlis could clearly analyze such matters in a wider context, he rather chooses here – in tune with Schumann’s inflections – to adhere to the more concrete approach, giving comprised, practical ‘how-to’ directions, and addressing the nascent musician in this intimate discourse. Bestowed with a direct lineal heritage of musical tradition, as well as a code of ethics, by his great mentors Jane Cowan, Sándor Végh, György Kurtág and Ferenc Rados, each of whom inspired Isserlis the musician and helped shape Isserlis the cellist in their own personal manner, Isserlis the educator is in turn consistently reaching out to the next generation. About the teachers in his life he has said: “I think I am right in saying that all four of these unique visionaries, different as they were/are, shared a basic set of musical values. In every lesson I took or observed with any of them, there was an over-riding goal: to help the student realize the composer’s vision. It hardly needs saying that none of them were interested in career for its own sake – in treating music like a competitive sport, in fact, which alas is the case in all too many institutions around the world today. These sages followed their musical ideals, and tried to help others do the same; what is the point in being a musician if one is not an idealist?” (Quoted from his 2014 speech at the Prussia Cove Chamber Music Festival). One of the fascinating discoveries of Isserlis’ mentorship may lie in his recognition that disciplined timing is everything. A set routine – a crucial element for the fostering of inspiration – builds a central aspect of his illustrated children books: Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and its sequel, Why Handel Waggled his Wig, both published by Faber and Faber in 2001 and 2006 respectively. Implementing good habits from the beginning, Isserlis describes the minutely detailed daily schedule of Tchaikovsky, for example, explaining the importance of making time for the mundane to the process of achieving the sublime: “Tchaikovsky will work from 9.30 until one o’clock. After that will come lunch, the main meal of the day, and then a walk of exactly two hours. (An hour and fifty-five minutes isn’t enough. Tchaikovsky is sure that he needs precisely two hours for the sake of his health.) He has to be alone for this, because he’s still composing in his head. The only problem is that the local children know that he’s a soft touch, because he loves children, and also because he loves to give his money away; so they will probably ambush him and beg for coins until he gives in and they run off, satisfied.” (Quoted from Why Handel Wagged his Wig). Isserlis delivers his commentary with a particular ‘soft touch,’ always reflective of the joy he takes in passing his love for music and Schumann on to the next generation.

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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