Schumann's "Gesänge der Frühe," Op. 133 for Solo Piano

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Lance
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Schumann's "Gesänge der Frühe," Op. 133 for Solo Piano

Post by Lance » Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:16 pm

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Robert Schumann, composer

Being Schumann's "200," I, like many others, are exploring much of his music that is not well known. Among the piano music is a five-sectioned suite entitled Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133. This is Schumann's final published piece (1854), which came forth in 1854, about two years before the composer's passing. I'm not sure if the suite was written in 1854 or was written long before the publication date. Gesänge der Frühe translates as Songs of Youth and probably takes its inspiration from Schumann's birthplace of Zwickau.

The titles are (with somewhat literal translations):
I - Im ruhigen tempo {in quiet tempo}
II - Belebt, nicht zu rasch {animated, not too fast}
III - Lebhaft {lively}
IV- Bewegt {moves}
V - Im Anfange ruhiges, im Verlauf bewegtes tempo {calm beginning moving tempo in the course}

Not speaking German, I'm sure the translations could be/should be more descriptive. My favourite of the set is IV-Bewegt. It is a sweeping piece, and for me, one of the most beautiful of the entire set. Of the three new Schumann sets I've acquired, all three sets have this suite within. You might be curious about what I have found in listening to each rendition, after identifying the pianists below:

{a} EMI - Alexander Lonquich (r.1991)
{b} Brilliant Classics - Ronald Brautigam [originally Olympia] (r.1993)
{c} DGG - Maurizio Pollini (r.2001)

The most convincing performance of these three, and indeed, of nearly ALL the Schumann is that of Ronald Brautigam. His is the most beautifully conceived and he possesses the finest tone quality and recording quality of the three pianists. I would suggest using Movement IV (Bewegt) in making the comparisons. Second is that of Alexander Lonquich, whose work is not all that widely known to me. Sometimes, Lonquich can sound mechanical, and in the most delicate pieces of Schumann, he achieves phenomenal success. The worst performance in terms of musical expression, tone quality, and conception was that of Maurizio Pollini. The whole series is tossed off as loud, louder and loudest. A great pity given Pollini's status and admiration among pianophiles. This was truly a "raw" performance that is difficult to believe Schumann perceived in his mind's ears in this manner.

Someone asked a while back why it may necessary to have so many recordings (even two or three) of any one particular piece. This is an excellent example of why music lovers need to at least hear various interpretations (not necessarily own them. If the only recording I heard of this piano suite was rendered by Maurizio Pollini, I would have been entirely disappointed with Schumann's writing.

If other listeners know of interpretations of merit, please discuss them here. This not to speak disparagingly about Maurizio Pollini. It's just that, over the years, I have not taken to his art because of the generally "cold" manner in which he imparts his musical ideas. On the other hand, listening to Ronald Brautigam (on non-historical pianos) was a revelation. Brautigam, of course, has established himself today as well known and refined pianist and musician.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: Schumann's "Gesänge der Frühe," Op. 133 for Solo Piano

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:33 pm

Yet another Schumann Thread, I can't wait for you to get off your Medication, it's seriously affecting your judgement... :wink:
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Lance
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Re: Schumann's "Gesänge der Frühe," Op. 133 for Solo Piano

Post by Lance » Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:55 pm

Bbbbb Chalkster, it's Schumann's 200th! We ALLneed to celebrate this very great composer's name and music in the 21st century more than ever! Did you acquire any of the special boxed sets (other than the RCA/Sony=BMG)?
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Chalkperson
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Re: Schumann's "Gesänge der Frühe," Op. 133 for Solo Piano

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:23 pm

Lance wrote:Bbbbb Chalkster, it's Schumann's 200th! We ALLneed to celebrate this very great composer's name and music in the 21st century more than ever! Did you acquire any of the special boxed sets (other than the RCA/Sony=BMG)?
Oh, great, so we are going to have 200 Schumann Threads... :lol:

I bought the DG and Sony Boxes, they make really good door stops... :mrgreen:
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Re: Schumann's "Gesänge der Frühe," Op. 133 for Solo Piano

Post by Ken » Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:10 am

My pick for the wonderful, chilling Op. 133 is the recording on period piano by Düsseldorf pianist Tobias Koch. He brings out the haunting contrasts and irony in the music without delving into oversentimentalization.
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

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