On 25th June 1850, Robert Schumann’s only opera, Genoveva, received its first performance at Leipzig State Theatre. It was a much-awaited event, as Schumann, widely regarded as the leading German instrumental composer, had set his mind to the urgent task of creating a national opera. However, despite the efforts of the composer’s supporters to maintain interest in the work, the opera was soon forgotten. When conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt first came across Genoveva some 15 years ago (he subsequently recorded a CD of it in 1996), he voiced the opinion that “Genoveva is a work of art for which one should be prepared to go to the barricades”. Harnoncourt sees the main reason why Genoveva has not been recognised as a brilliant composition and perhaps the most significant opera written during the second half of the 19th century, as having much to do with the false expectations attached to the work. “You mustn’t look for dramatic events in this opera. What it offers us is a glimpse into the soul. Schumann was not interested in creating something naturalistic – he wanted to write a type of opera in which the music had a greater say.”
The Beethoven Triple Concerto is a strange work, with the most important–-or at least prominent–-solos given to the cello; it is the instrument which introduces each movement. The remarkable Martha Argerich wisely allows Mischa Maisky to shine in his solos and leading position, but her contribution is anything but back seat. Her customary virtuosity is everywhere in evidence, and, in a way, she turns the piano into the spinal column of the work, with the violin and cello playing around her. Every time Maisky is about to lapse into a mannerism which might detract–-too much sliding, a dynamic slightly exaggerated–-Argerich brings him back, and both of them play with handsome tone. Capucon's violin is recorded a bit stridently (this was taped live in Lugano), but his playing is equally stunning. Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky leads the orchestra matter-of-factly until the final movement, when he catches the proper fire. In the Schumann A minor concerto Argerich is wonderful the solo passages and a fine partner in orchestrated ones and she really makes much of both the lyrical runs and the dance-like passages in the last movement. Recommended.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt created an interpretation in which Haydn’s work can become a veritable gem of opera literature. Renowned actor and director Tobias Moretti relates the story as a light-footed, magical fairy tale infused with slapstick, witty details and fantasy costumes.
June 8, 2010 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of robert Schumann, one of the most important romantic composers of the 19th century. To celebrate his vast and impressive output, Deutsche Grammophon and Decca have compiled this 35-CD box set of his most important masterworks. Though this is not a complete edition, it includes every major work and a number of rarities covering every aspect of Schumann’s output.