Although highly productive and respected in his lifetime as a composer of Lieder, Robert Franz (1815–92) has since become a peripheral figure in music history. One reason may be that he avoids dramatic contrasts and instead aims at an emotional ambiguity: ‘My representation of joy is always tinged with melancholy, whilst that of suffering is always accompanied by an exquisite sensation of losing oneself’, he once wrote to Liszt. As a consequence his music appeals to those who are able ‘to admire the nuances of a charcoal drawing without longing for the colours of a painting’, to quote from Georges Starobinski’s liner notes to this recording. As they began to explore the songs of Franz, Starobinski and the baritone Christian Immler were moved by their findings to devise a programme which includes 23 of the composer’s often quite brief songs. Using the poet Heinrich Heine as their guiding star, they present these – all Heine settings but from different opus groups – in the form of two ‘imagined’ song cycles.
The peerless Takacs Quartet recently nominated for a Gramophone award for their second disc of Brahms's string quartets, continue their exploration of the Romantic chamber music tradition with this disc of Schumann. The Piano Quintet is by far Schumann's most popular chamber work and one of the most beloved works in the genre. Schumann was the first romantic composer to pair the piano with the string quartet. Schumann studied the string quartets of Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn and his quartet Op. 41 No. 3 demonstrates these influences. However, it contains many highly original strokes, particularly the casting of the scherzo as a set of variations. The Takacs Quartet are joined by Marc-Andre Hamelin in an invigorating partnership that has already been widely acclaimed on the concert platform.
Liederabend "Wien-Prag-Berlin". Geografisch bilden Wien, Prag und Berlin gewissermaßen die Nord-Süd-Achse Mitteleuropas.
Historisch sind diese drei Metropolen schicksalsträchtig miteinander verbunden; für die Ambivalenz zwischen Freundschaft und Feindschaft geben die drei Jahrhunderte seit dem Barock ein beredtes Zeugnis. In der Musik besteht eine lange Tradition der gegenseitigen Befruchtung zwischen diesen Städten, die nicht zueltzt im kompositorischen Netzwerk zum Ausdruck kommt, in welchem die Schöpfer der von einer Berlinerin und einer Wienerin gesungenen Duette verbunden sind.
Barbara Bonney's recital of the Schumanns' songs is prefaced, in the booklet-note, with a little feminist homily from the singer defending the reputation of Clara as woman and artist. Clara hardly needs that kind of defence nowadays, witness recent CDs by Skovhus and Stutzmann, plus several others not reviewed in these pages; her songs are far from patronized, let alone neglected. Yet, for all the advocacy of these singers, her inspiration remains for me intermittent, though thoroughly conventional songs are occasionally leavened by notably individual ones, such as, here, her very last and unpublished song, Loreley, which vividly conjures up that dangerous creature, particu lady in the hectic piano part, evocatively played by Ashkenazy. Indeed it seems that Heine most inspired her, as "Sic liebten sich beide" from her Op. 13 provoked a setting of economically intense meaning, to which Bonney finely responds.– Gramophone [9/1997].
Maria João Pires “shapes and colours every phrase, and with immaculate taste, and she makes sure the phrases end as eloquently as they begin,” wrote Gramophone in 1974. “She conveys not just the details but the relevance of every note to the whole … Best of all, she communicates everything she has discovered about the music, and it is worth having.” This Portuguese pupil of Wilhelm Kempff, Pires was one of the artists who defined the Erato label in the 1970s and 1980s. This 5-CD box gathers together the recordings she made over the period from 1976 to 1985 and it reflects the consistent focus of her repertoire, with its special emphasis on Austro-German composers of the Classical and early-Romantic periods. Embracing solo works, piano duets and concertos, it contains works by Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, but also by Bach and Chopin.
Deutsche Grammophon has another excellent Schumann Concerto in its catalog, the Pollini/Abbado, with the Berlin Philharmonic, coupled with a good but not great Schoenberg Piano Concerto. Not surprisingly, Pollini is more muscular and evenly balanced in the Schumann, even if he is, as usual, a bit straitlaced. Pires is always the sensitive and probing artist, or so it seems. Here, she is alert from the opening descending chords to the expressive potential in every bar. She puts much more thinking and feeling in her interpretation than Pollini and most others I've heard.
ALthough not very famous, Jeno Jando is a marvelous pianist. He combines lyrical beaty with power and emotion. Both of these attributes are evident in this disc, which contains the piano concertos of Grieg and Schumann, both in the key of a-minor. In Grieg's concerto, Jando creates a perfect balance between Lisztian virtuosity and Grieg's own Norweigan nationalism. The Schumann concerto is my favorite piece on the album, and Schumann's raw emotion comes out perfectly in Jando's interpretation. A word should also be said for the wonderful orchestration of these pieces. This is a wonderful CD both to introduce these romantic piano concertos and to offer a wonderful interpretation of them.
Seemingly on an impulse, Robert Schumann wrote his Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129, during two weeks in 1850, heading towards the last years of lucidity and life. Schumann may never have heard it played as the concerto did not premiere until seven months after his death. On this disc we have the opportunity of hearing not only the Cello Concerto but three other pieces written for cello and piano, the Adagio and Allegro perhaps being the most well known..
A 19th-century ‘trio sonata’. Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov have already given us an acclaimed version Brahms’s First Violin Sonata, in 2007. They now complete the cycle with the other two sonatas of 1886 and 1888, and add a fascinating rarity dating from 35 years earlier: the ‘F-A-E’ Sonata, a collaborative effort by three composers in honour of the great violinist Joachim, who had to guess who had written which movement! He did so with ease, for the Scherzo is as eminently Brahmsian as the Intermezzo and Finale are Schumannesque. Alexander Melnikov will be contributing his take on a score his mother gave him that belonged to Sviatoslav Richter in September BBC Music Magazine.