Schumann

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Belle
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Schumann

Post by Belle » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:34 pm

I've always found the music of this composer extraordinary, as well as the compelling life story - the roles of Clara and Johannes Brahms in particular. (I'm preparing myself for an all-day Investment Seminar tomorrow in the city and bracing myself with Schumann today. I'll be without music all day Friday!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnbLTCbGV6k

JohnF provided a link of Backhaus playing the "Fantasie" Op. 17 and that started the ball rolling. What do you think of Schumann and which of his works do you love and/or admire?

I particularly love this intense movement from a wonderful symphony by Schumann, which went through my head in a 2011 visit to Bonn: shades of Mahler and Bruckner too!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOGW7bgfuro

A large portrait of the composer, taken from an engraving and bought in 2011 at Heck's in Vienna, hangs on the wall in my music room.

jbuck919
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Re: Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:29 pm

My grad school friend to whom I sometimes refer, who is a great musical scholar and performer, once said that he liked Schumann beyond what Schumann had musically to offer. (He also said that he liked the greatly inferior composer Liszt because of the challenge it gave his fingers.) I'm still in touch with this person, and imagine that he would rescind this opinion, for Schumann is surely one of the ten greatest composers. Donald Francis Tovey got it right when he wrote multiple times that it does not matter that Schumann is not architectonically measure-to-measure great like, say, Beethoven, as long as his compositions consist of individual jewel boxes.

My high school piano teacher had me working on the little-know Novelleten by the time I graduated. They were impossibly difficult for me, but bless her memory, she had faith in me. I post this because just the appearance of the score is an extraordinary work of art.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Belle
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Re: Schumann

Post by Belle » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:39 pm

Stunning! The last 12 bars are especially fabulous and we are encouraged to ask "what is the key of this piece"? Congratulations if you could play this; those wretched chords and their varied accidentals. Not to mention the inner parts. Punishment!! What am I saying? You play the organ.

jbuck919
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Re: Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:06 pm

Belle wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:39 pm
Stunning! The last 12 bars are especially fabulous and we are encouraged to ask "what is the key of this piece"? Congratulations if you could play this; those wretched chords and their varied accidentals. Not to mention the inner parts. Punishment!! What am I saying? You play the organ.
Well don't think that I could actually play it. It's a good thing that I graduated from high school when I did. And the organ is actually an easier instrument than the piano, as hard as that may be to believe.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Schumann

Post by John F » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:37 am

Which of Schumann's works do I love or admire? First it would be his songs and song cycles, especially "Dichterliebe"; I rank him with Schubert as the greatest Lieder composer. Also much of the solo piano music, though not the sonatas except for the sonata-like Fantasia; less so the chamber music and the concertos other than the one for piano. Of the symphonies, the one I got to know first and still like the most is #3, the Rhenish, which my parents had in the fine Bruno Walter recording. But different conductors have their own favorites. Toscanini repeatedly conducted the second symphony; Furtwängler recorded only the 4th.
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:51 am

John F wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:37 am
Which of Schumann's works do I love or admire? First it would be his songs and song cycles, especially "Dichterliebe"; I rank him with Schubert as the greatest Lieder composer. Also much of the solo piano music, though not the sonatas except for the sonata-like Fantasia; less so the chamber music and the concertos other than the one for piano. Of the symphonies, the one I got to know first and still like the most is #3, the Rhenish, which my parents had in the fine Bruno Walter recording. But different conductors have their own favorites. Toscanini repeatedly conducted the second symphony; Furtwängler recorded only the 4th.
Oh come now. It is fluff, but as one of my professors put it, it is very nice fluff. There is of course weak Schumann. Among other things, he composed a set of organ (or pedal piano) fugues on BACH, demonstrating that he knew nothing of counterpoint.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Schumann

Post by John F » Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:47 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Oh come now. It is fluff, but as one of my professors put it, it is very nice fluff.
What exactly are you calling "fluff"? If it's any of the repertoire I mentioned, then obviously I couldn't disagree more. Why would anybody think so? Professor or not.
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:56 pm

John F wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:47 pm
jbuck919 wrote:Oh come now. It is fluff, but as one of my professors put it, it is very nice fluff.
What exactly are you calling "fluff"? If it's any of the repertoire I mentioned, then obviously I couldn't disagree more. Why would anybody think so? Professor or not.
I was trying to meet you halfway on Schumann's chamber music, much of which is in the category of masterpiece.

The piece my college professor was referring to was Stravinsky's Jeux de cartes, which was actually produced on a Broadway stage. The producer sent him a telegram saying that his show was a huge success, but could be a smash hit if he would allow so-and-so to re-orchestrate it. To this, Stravinsky replied "Satisfied with huge success."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

maestrob
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Re: Schumann

Post by maestrob » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:02 pm

When I think of Schumann, I first think of his Symphonies, of which the Rhenish (III) was my first acquaintance. It wasn't until Solti recorded them in Vienna that I was completely satisfied with a complete set, and that set is still my benchmark to this day, although Abbado made an extraordinary recording of II as one of his last recordings:

Image

I studied the symphonies at Juilliard, and found Schumann's use of tempo to be deeply inventive and far ahead of his time. The most compelling for me is IV, with its structure actually through-connected so that the Symphony resembles a gigantic sonata for orchestra. What a challenge that must have been in its day! Furtwangler's inventive recording for DGG, while a best-seller, always puzzled me, as he reinvents the piece in his own way, something I disagree with violently. Solti and Bernstein do much better IMHO.

I have not studied the keyboard works, but admit to admiring the usual favorites, especially when played by Horowitz and Guiomar Novaes: the latter of whom I heard play Carnavale live on a recital at the tender age of 11! Awe-inspiring!

The Sonatas, while allowing a great deal of virtuosity, have always left me feeling unsatisfied, even when played by Horowitz. They've never quite reached me either, John. Perhaps others feel differently, but there it is.

As for chamber music, Schumann's best is his Piano Quartet, which is the only recording I have of James Levine (w/ LaSalle Quartet) at the keyboard.

John F
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Re: Schumann

Post by John F » Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:07 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:56 pm
John F wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:47 pm
jbuck919 wrote:Oh come now. It is fluff, but as one of my professors put it, it is very nice fluff.
What exactly are you calling "fluff"? If it's any of the repertoire I mentioned, then obviously I couldn't disagree more. Why would anybody think so? Professor or not.
I was trying to meet you halfway on Schumann's chamber music, much of which is in the category of masterpiece.

The piece my college professor was referring to was Stravinsky's Jeux de cartes, which was actually produced on a Broadway stage. The producer sent him a telegram saying that his show was a huge success, but could be a smash hit if he would allow so-and-so to re-orchestrate it. To this, Stravinsky replied "Satisfied with huge success."
I don't see how a joke about a Stravinsky ballet, fluff or not, is relevant to my saying which of Schumann's works I personally love and/or admire, or your dismissing what I say. But it really isn't worth arguing about, so I won't.

As for "Jeu de Cartes," I didn't know that it was ever produced on a Broadway stage. It was premiered in the Metropolitan Opera House with choreography by Balanchine (who did a certain amount of work on Broadway, to be sure) and I saw it done by the Stuttgart Ballet choreographed by John Cranko, with a bravura dancing role for the joker. Classical ballet, with humor.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Schumann

Post by jserraglio » Thu Oct 12, 2017 5:10 pm

It was Scenes de Ballet (1944) not Jeu de cartes (1936-37) that got a Broadway premiere and a message to and from Stravinsky. —> Wikipedia

John F
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Re: Schumann

Post by John F » Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:14 am

Ah so. That's one of the few Stravinsky ballet scores that has made no impression at all on me. Absolutely zero. I should listen again. Just now I was listening again to "Jeu de Cartes" and caught the fleeting and witty quotation from the "Barber of Seville" overture. Stravinsky could make musical jokes with the best of them, like the duo for trombone and double bass in "Pulcinella."

Back to Schumann. I had forgotten his piano quintet, the one piece of his chamber music that I really enjoy and have heard often. As for the symphonies, I don't collect music in bulk and don't know or care about complete sets. My preferences, symphony by symphony, are 1. George Szell, 2. Leopold Stokowski on Victor, 3. Bruno Walter, 4. Wilhelm Furtwängler. Schumann of all the Romantic composers least demands or benefits from a strict approach, not just in his piano music and songs but I'd say also in the orchestral works, but Szell's vitality goes beyond a literal reading.
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: Schumann

Post by maestrob » Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:29 am

Szell's complete set of Schumann symphonies are favorites of mine, all four. Szell actually rescored the winds to fit the wider range of modern instruments, and IIRC may have touched up the brass as well. Anyway, I didn't know that when I got the set as a teenager, and have enjoyed them since then as my knowledge grew. If you want to compare the difference, I suggest comparing the Szells to Roy Goodman's original instruments set on RCA: quite a few surprises! (using a score of course!). Mahler also put his hand to rescoring the set: recorded by Chailly, IIRC.

Image

I imagined you'd like that Furtwangler IV on DGG, but if you follow the score with it, you find all sorts of tempo distortions in Furtwangler that do not exist in the score, or Solti/Sawallisch/Bernstein. Furtwangler may be intriguing, but it's not what Schumann wanted.

barney
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Re: Schumann

Post by barney » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:21 am

I got to know Schumann through the symphonies, but seldom visit them now. It's the piano works and the chamber music. I agree: he was a genius, and a generous-spirited one too, with his music writings and criticism.
I think the Op 17 might be my very favourite work, but it is hard-pressed by Carnaval, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, the piano quintet and some of the lieder. Dichterliebe is brilliant. I have a soft spot for Waldszenen.
Such a sad personal story, I can scarcely bear it.

barney
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Re: Schumann

Post by barney » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:24 am

Belle, I am hugely impressed by an all-day investment seminar. You must have pots of money and a gigantic brain. Mind you, no one would want to rely on the generosity of the government (pension) to survive, these days or any days.

John F
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Re: Schumann

Post by John F » Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:06 am

maestrob wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:29 am
Szell's complete set of Schumann symphonies are favorites of mine, all four. Szell actually rescored the winds to fit the wider range of modern instruments, and IIRC may have touched up the brass as well.
As a Toscanini fan, you're used to conductors "retouching" the scoring of orchestral music, even those who claim to be faithful to the score. Nearly every conductor rewrites the coda of the Eroica Symphony's first movement to suit the modern trumpet, or everybody used to before the literalism of the HIP people made a kind of moral issue of it.
maestrob wrote:I imagined you'd like that Furtwangler IV on DGG, but if you follow the score with it, you find all sorts of tempo distortions in Furtwangler that do not exist in the score, or Solti/Sawallisch/Bernstein. Furtwangler may be intriguing, but it's not what Schumann wanted.
Now wait a minute. On Monday you wrote, in another thread:
maestrob wrote:The map is not the territory. What's written on the page is only the beginning. Though I am a Toscanini fan, I think that there are many ways to interpret any score by reading between the lines, and great musicians certainly know how to do so, just as great actors in a play do so. I think we agree on this. Whether one agrees with any particular interpretation is a matter of personal taste, of course. What moves me in music is a great interpretation that draws on the score as written as the beginning, much as the poetic discipline of Shakespeare's Sonnets.
Now you seem to be saying the opposite. I agree with what you said then but not with what you're saying now. :)

Anyway, following a performance with the score is not what we music-lovers other than critics and professionals do, or what composers want us to, and we're right. You can't know, nobody can know, what Schumann wanted in the performance of his symphonies in addition to what's in the score. He was such a poor conductor that all he may have wanted was for the orchestra to start and end together. But one thing we do know for sure, he did not expect or want us to be following his music with the score. Why would we want to, anyway? To try to find fault with the performance, or possibly with the score? I have quite a few scores, including full orchestral scores of "Pelléas" and "Wozzeck," because these are complex works that I love and want to study the music in detail, usually with the aid of a recording. I don't have a score for the Schumann 4th and if I did, I wouldn't use it in the way you suggest.

As for Furtwängler's recording of the 4th symphony, since when have rubato and tempo changes been verboten in the performance of high Romantic music? Even Brahms, that severe neoclassicist, withdrew the metronome marks for his symphonies, saying that they only applied to the first few bars of each movement. This kind of freedom in performance may make you uneasy, but it's historically and stylistically justified. For me there's magic in Furtwängler's stunning transition between the 3rd and 4th movements of Schumann 4, and while I don't demand that other conductors do likewise, I'm happy that he did. Here it is for others to hear and judge for themselves.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xflms-ieHAs

A clue to Schumann's preferences in performance can be found in his writings on music. He reviewed three recitals by Liszt in 1840, one of them including selections from "Carnaval" to honor Schumann who Liszt knew was in the audience. According to Schumann, his playing was "sympathetic and wonderful." This despite the certainty that Liszt would have made free with the letter of Schumann's score and would have played the music quite differently from Clara Schumann. He concluded about Liszt's playing in private, "How often I have heard him on such occasions, and how I have admired him!" If we today don't admire that kind of playing, we don't have Robert Schumann on our side.
Last edited by John F on Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:42 am, edited 4 times in total.
John Francis

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Re: Schumann

Post by lennygoran » Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:04 am

barney wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:21 am
I got to know Schumann through the symphonies, but seldom visit them now.
Barney I listen to those a lot-just love them! Regards, Len

maestrob
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Re: Schumann

Post by maestrob » Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:54 pm

JohnF:

Well, I can only repeat myself in slightly a slightly different way: I admire Furtwangler's way with Schumann IV, even though I violently disagree with it. We've gone down this path before with Shostakovich V and Rostropovich among other conductors, so I don't see the need to belabor my point.

jbuck919
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Re: Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:45 pm

barney wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:21 am
I got to know Schumann through the symphonies, but seldom visit them now. It's the piano works and the chamber music. I agree: he was a genius, and a generous-spirited one too, with his music writings and criticism.
I think the Op 17 might be my very favourite work, but it is hard-pressed by Carnaval, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, the piano quintet and some of the lieder. Dichterliebe is brilliant. I have a soft spot for Waldszenen.
Such a sad personal story, I can scarcely bear it.
Although I love the Schumann symphonies, they were composed at the suggestion of his wife, the great Clara, who told him that he was being outreached by now forgotten contemporaries. As for his musical criticism, he is famous for having introduced Chopin at the beginning and Brahms at the end. In between there was a lot of stuff. Nobody has ever explained his madness. It could not have been syphillis, because his wife was perfectly healthy and he fathered something like seven healthy children. IMO it was a case of then un-diagnosable schizophrenia, an exact clinical condition that can now be treated.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Schumann

Post by John F » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:00 pm

In between there was also Schumann's appreciation of Schubert's Symphony #9 and its "heavenly length." He wasn't infallible; he described Mozart's Symphony #40 in G minor as embodying "Hellenic grace," which is about 180 degrees off the mark. But mostly his judgments still look pretty good.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Schumann

Post by Belle » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:19 pm

barney wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:24 am
Belle, I am hugely impressed by an all-day investment seminar. You must have pots of money and a gigantic brain. Mind you, no one would want to rely on the generosity of the government (pension) to survive, these days or any days.
My sense of humour kicked in, Barney, after some hours of very articulate 'suits' - mostly young and very well educated - talking about EBITs and LICs, LITs, PERs and NTAs; the acronyms were flying thick and fast and the data and overheads kept us awake most of the day!! But I did make jokes later with some of the folks over lunch and afternoon tea. Usually one would never laugh about financial matters - especially at the Australian Stock Exchange! But, as an aside; on the train going in from Hornsby at peak hour (we live 85 minutes' drive from Sydney, so it's park and ride) two women opposite were on their way to a huge walk at Manly, backpacks in tow. I lamented my weight gain and disinterest in physical activities, preference for sedentary activities and time-wasting and one of the women piped up and said, "Bertrand Russell once said that if you enjoy wasting time then it's never wasted time". My husband and I looked at each other and grinned. Only in Sydney (or Melbourne) would you have that kind of spontaneous conversation with a fellow train passenger!! I guess that, at short notice, she must have assumed I'd know who Bertrand Russell was. :lol:

Anyway, this is what I'm listening to now which is very relevant to this thread:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPRptAOE2QI
Last edited by Belle on Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:29 pm, edited 8 times in total.

jbuck919
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Re: Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:21 pm

John F wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:00 pm
In between there was also Schumann's appreciation of Schubert's Symphony #9 and its "heavenly length." He wasn't infallible; he described Mozart's Symphony #40 in G minor as embodying "Hellenic grace," which is about 180 degrees off the mark. But mostly his judgments still look pretty good.
Although they did not know each other and were nearly a generation apart, and although they were virtually foreign objects to each other, Schumann cried when he heard of Schubert's death. Only the greatest of German critics could have recognized the significance of he early death of someone in then far-away Austria.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Belle
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Re: Schumann

Post by Belle » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:32 pm

This is just another reason Schumann is a hero. And I absolutely agree with Barney about the 'sad personal story'. One of his sons died in an asylum as well!!

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