Piano Music of Schumann

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Belle
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Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Belle » Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:44 am

This afternoon an absolute treat; the Fantasy in C, Op. 17 by Schumann and Bunte Blätter, both played by Richter. I must say the second movement of the Fantasy is a surprise, with its gentler opening chords than, say, Pollini (whose CD recording I own). Anyway, to the latter work; here is the recording by Richter I've been listening to on my lovely new computer sound system: I'm largely unfamiliar with this work and much more familiar with the other works for piano by Schumann. I have to say he's a composer with whom I never grow bored!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI7s-c7k3So

There's a concert recording by Horowitz of the Fantasy on U-Tube which I also heard. I must say he has a lightness of touch with few other pianists had or have and a real separation between the lines but he seems to also take a lot of liberties with tempi.

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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:26 am

Horowitz was an eccentric pianist if ever there was one. In his later years, he insisted on playing Kinderszenen at every recital, a work that any school-child pianist of a certain talent including myself could play quite adequately. As John F pointed out, people still came because they wanted to say they had heard Horowitz, but basically I could not stand him. His last recording was of the Mozart Concerto K 488, which I have also brought up recently, and although the editors and technicians put together something respectable, there was a TV special about this, which was under the great conductor Giulini, which indicates that his performance was awful. No, I mean awful beyond belief.

As for Schumann, the person known to Garrett (IcedNote) and myself once commented that he liked him past his real value, one of the few times I found him wrong. Schumann is clearly one of the half dozen or maybe fewer piano composers of all time, and a great deal of his work is now neglected.


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: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by John F » Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:41 am

In the U.S. Horowitz used to be called eccentric at a time when any freedom of interpretation was looked down on as a departure from the musical text and therefore verboten. Others of that kind included Wilhelm Furtwängler. During the 1940s, when this aesthetic was at its peak, Horowitz submitted himself to the apostle of come e scritto, his father-in-law Toscanini, for performances and recordings not only of Tchaikovsky 1 but Beethoven 5 and Brahms 1 and 2; I grew up with the Horowitz Brahms 2nd concerto.

But during the 1960s and 1970s the essentially moralizing demand for close literal fidelity to the text eased. Not only were Furtwängler, Stokowski, and other post-Romantic musicians reassessed and given serious critical attention, but a new generation emerged, mainly in Russia, who were highly individual. I remember the first time I heard Sviatoslav Richter's amazing recording of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata, original from beginning to end. And Horowitz's virtues, not just of digital virtuosity, began to get a sympathetic hearing from critics. (The public never had any problem with Horowitz's style; they loved it, and lined up in great numbers outside Carnegie Hall hoping for standing room.)

Schumann marked the first movement of the Fantasia "Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen." The pianist is instructed to indulge his fantasy, which if it means anything involves freedom of tempo, not strict obedience to the score. Horowitz's recording, actually less free than Richter's, is not my favorite of this music, but to my ears it is not "eccentric," it's Schumannesque.

You keep speaking of "Kinderscenen" as if no professional pianist should ever play it. Many great pianists other than Horowitz have not thought it beneath them to play and record it, among them Schnabel, Cortot, Gieseking, Moiseiwitsch, Novaes, Curzon, and Haskil for starters; Clara Schumann played it in public and her pupils Fanny Davies and Adeline de Lara recorded it. Many more have recorded "Träumerei" as a separate piece.

You say it's "a work that any school-child pianist of a certain talent including myself could play quite adequately." Maybe so, but I can't play it or anything else, nor I'm sure can a large majority of today's classical music lovers. If we're to hear this music, others must play it for us. And while I'd be pleased to hear you play it, you may not be available when I want to hear it, and then I'll be glad to have Horowitz play it for me, more than "quite adequately."
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:06 am

It's Traumerei without the umlaut, but more to the point, Furtwängler was eccentric. One does not properly conduct the last movement of the Ninth with an accelerando.

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

Rach3
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Rach3 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:46 pm

You may also want to hear the Op.17 Fantasy played by the late Sergio Fiorentino, final mov. slower than usually played:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa7LS5A2BhI

Fiorentino said Bach and Schumann were his 2 fav composers.

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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by John F » Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:54 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:06 am
It's Traumerei without the umlaut, but more to the point, Furtwängler was eccentric. One does not properly conduct the last movement of the Ninth with an accelerando.
None of Furtwangler's performances accelerates in the last movement's coda. What actually happens is in the score. Beethoven marks the last bars with chorus as Maestoso, then the orchestral coda is marked Prestissimo and that's how Furtwangler conducts it. No performance is more Prestissimo than his, but that's not eccentric, it's taking Beethoven at his word.

What, in your view, does "eccentric" mean? I know of recordings that are willful and decidedly peculiar, several conducted by Mengelberg and a few by Stokowski but none by Furtwangler, and I've listened to as many of his as I could get hold of.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Belle » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:43 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:46 pm
You may also want to hear the Op.17 Fantasy played by the late Sergio Fiorentino, final mov. slower than usually played:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa7LS5A2BhI

Fiorentino said Bach and Schumann were his 2 fav composers.
Thanks; I'm listening to it right now. I love to read the score while I'm listening, which is one of the huge benefits of the internet. However, in this instance, I do have an Urtext score of the work on my bookcase. When you're doing that you get a greater sense of Schumann's originality and genius and how much of a departure was his musical style from that of his forebears and peers. Schumann was, of course, honouring Beethoven with this work. I remember writing an essay about it decades ago for Musicology and the topic, if I remember correctly, was whether or not Schumann's dedication to Beethoven signalled the end of the classical period. I'm pretty sure I wrote that it did not; in any case, whatever case I argued, it garnered me a high distinction!!

That first movement is total ecstasy.

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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:03 pm

John F wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:54 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:06 am
It's Traumerei without the umlaut, but more to the point, Furtwängler was eccentric. One does not properly conduct the last movement of the Ninth with an accelerando.
None of Furtwangler's performances accelerates in the last movement's coda. What actually happens is in the score. Beethoven marks the last bars with chorus as Maestoso, then the orchestral coda is marked Prestissimo and that's how Furtwangler conducts it. No performance is more Prestissimo than his, but that's not eccentric, it's taking Beethoven at his word.

What, in your view, does "eccentric" mean? I know of recordings that are willful and decidedly peculiar, several conducted by Mengelberg and a few by Stokowski but none by Furtwangler, and I've listened to as many of his as I could get hold of.
I was not talking about what you call the coda. Let's forget it.

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: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by John F » Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:18 pm

If that's not what you meant by "One does not properly conduct the last movement of the Ninth with an accelerando," I wish you would explain what you do mean. After all, it's you who brought up the issue of eccentricity in the first place. Of course if you choose not to, there's nothing I can do about that.
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Holden Fourth » Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:23 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:46 pm
You may also want to hear the Op.17 Fantasy played by the late Sergio Fiorentino, final mov. slower than usually played:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa7LS5A2BhI

Fiorentino said Bach and Schumann were his 2 fav composers.
I also rate the Fiorentino as the best I’ve heard Op 17 played. Please note that there are two recordings of this by SF. One is live and the other studio and both are from the same era (1990s). It’s hard to rate one above the other but maybe the live version wins it for me. Both are onthe APR label.

Rach3
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Rach3 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:13 pm

Holden Fourth wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:23 pm
I also rate the Fiorentino as the best I’ve heard Op 17 played. Please note that there are two recordings of this by SF. One is live and the other studio and both are from the same era (1990s). It’s hard to rate one above the other but maybe the live version wins it for me. Both are onthe APR label.
Yes, thank you.
"E' il solo altro pianista."
- Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

jbuck919
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:38 pm

John F wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:18 pm
If that's not what you meant by "One does not properly conduct the last movement of the Ninth with an accelerando," I wish you would explain what you do mean. After all, it's you who brought up the issue of eccentricity in the first place. Of course if you choose not to, there's nothing I can do about that.
It surprises me that you, vastly my superior in recorded performances, do not know what I am talking about. No, Maestro F. took the lengthy intro into the fourth movement unusually slowly and then just sped up into the choral entrance. Entirely idiosyncratic.

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: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by John F » Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:47 pm

OK, now I get it. The last movement is full of tempo changes and you really can't blame me for failing to guess what (presumably) unmarked tempo change you were referring to.

I've listened again to the Bayreuth 1951 recording that EMI published, which is probably the one you're criticizing. (There are many Furtwängler 9ths on records and no two are identical.) There is no perceptible accelerando anywhere from the beginning of the finale to the entry of the chorus. Many tempo changes, but they're not Furtwängler's fault but Beethoven's, to which Furtwängler is faithful, though like most conductors he ignores Beethoven's metronome marks. I believe you're mistaken.

If you think I've missed something, here's the Furtwängler performance - tell me at what point (using the time bar, minutes and seconds) you hear what you're talking about, and I'll listen again.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHDXdbSWu0E

A characteristic Furtwänglerism in the finale comes at "Und der Cherub steht vor Gott." The last "Gott" is marked "molto tenuto" and Furtwängler holds it forever, as the score allows but does not require. This reminds me that for a performance of the 9th at Tanglewood conducted by Rostropovich, the chorus master John Oliver asked him how long he wanted the chorus to sustain "vor Gott," and Rostropovich said, "As long as humanly possible!" Rostropovich's performances, like Furtwängler's, were highly individual without, in my view, being eccentric; that's one reason I esteem both of them so highly.

Of course Schumann is a very different kind of composer (to get back to the thread's topic), his piano music and not just the fantasia is full of fantasy, and a precisely literal performance of it is unidiomatic. The great pianists of the past knew better, and recordings like Rachmaninoff's of "Carnaval" though very personal are arguably closer to Schumann in style than anything we're likely to hear in concert today. Liszt once played selections from "Carnaval" in a concert attended by Schumann, who praised it highly; you can be sure that Liszt was not a literalist.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTaWWk2Z5RU&t=142s
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Belle » Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:51 pm

"Carnaval" is another favourite by Schumann; there are so many!! I have a recording of this from Arrau and I must say it doesn't enchant - mostly due to the sound quality. So, recourse to the internet is the next best option.

Rach3
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Rach3 » Tue Sep 18, 2018 5:35 pm

Belle wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:51 pm
"Carnaval" is another favourite by Schumann; there are so many!! I have a recording of this from Arrau and I must say it doesn't enchant - mostly due to the sound quality. So, recourse to the internet is the next best option.
2 recordings to have:

Artur Rubinstein's last studio version, 60's , mine the RCA lp, pairing both "Carnaval" and " Fantasiestucke ". Got to hear AR play "Fantasiestucke" live, twice.

Rachmaninoff's "Carnaval."

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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Holden Fourth » Tue Sep 18, 2018 5:44 pm

Solomon’s is also worth a listen.

Belle
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Belle » Tue Sep 18, 2018 6:02 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 5:35 pm
Belle wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:51 pm
"Carnaval" is another favourite by Schumann; there are so many!! I have a recording of this from Arrau and I must say it doesn't enchant - mostly due to the sound quality. So, recourse to the internet is the next best option.
2 recordings to have:

Artur Rubinstein's last studio version, 60's , mine the RCA lp, pairing both "Carnaval" and " Fantasiestucke ". Got to hear AR play "Fantasiestucke" live, twice.

Rachmaninoff's "Carnaval."
Maybe I can check out the AR versions online, if available. I bought his 'complete Chopin' recently and I see I've damaged one of the CDs irreparably and cannot play half a dozen of the Mazurkas. Don't know how it happened, but it worked fine when first shipped from Amazon USA. (Whoever bragged that CDs couldn't be damaged!?)

Update: I've listened to the first two or three tracks of the AR and it sounds as though it was recorded in a little room!!

This looks interesting too:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22Uozp_5JiQ

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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:26 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 5:35 pm
Belle wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 3:51 pm
"Carnaval" is another favourite by Schumann; there are so many!! I have a recording of this from Arrau and I must say it doesn't enchant - mostly due to the sound quality. So, recourse to the internet is the next best option.
2 recordings to have:

Artur Rubinstein's last studio version, 60's , mine the RCA lp, pairing both "Carnaval" and " Fantasiestucke ". Got to hear AR play "Fantasiestucke" live, twice.

I heard AR's Opus 12 as long ago as high school, and he actually makes an obvious and rather hideous note mistake in it which he did not bother to go back and fix in the studio. (With the exception of the transcendental number In der Nacht, it is not a particularly virtuosic work). Of course, Rubinstein put in many note-perfect performances, but that standard, which we take for granted today, somewhat postdates his heyday.

Rachmaninoff's "Carnaval."

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

Rach3
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Rach3 » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:03 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:26 pm
I heard AR's Opus 12 as long ago as high school, and he actually makes an obvious and rather hideous note mistake in it which he did not bother to go back and fix in the studio.

" Note-perfect " performances are often not perfect performances.

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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by John F » Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:49 am

There are plenty of false and dropped notes in recordings made at 78rpm before 1949, when editing was impossible. If the performance is inspired, incidental imperfections don't bother me.
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by maestrob » Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:29 am

John F wrote:
Wed Sep 19, 2018 9:49 am
There are plenty of false and dropped notes in recordings made at 78rpm before 1949, when editing was impossible. If the performance is inspired, incidental imperfections don't bother me.
What you said. :)

Been listening to Cortot's 1930's recordings, and while there are occasional "flubs," I mightily prefer them and Rachmaninoff's Schumann to many later note perfect versions. The piano tone of the restorations is remarkably good. I'm told that the original metal stampers were used (where available) to press the recordings onto vinyl, which made superb sound available to us. I actually like the fullness of the 1930's recordings better than the slightly thinner sound of the post WWII recordings on magnetic tape, interestingly enough.

This set is a must-have for piano fans:

Image

Belle
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Belle » Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:44 pm

I bought the Cortot Chopin "Preludes" on the recommendation of Alfred Brendel (in a documentary).

Rach3
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Re: Piano Music of Schumann

Post by Rach3 » Wed Sep 19, 2018 3:54 pm

Belle wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:43 pm
Schumann was, of course, honouring Beethoven with this work.
Correct,although I've always felt the work was as much about his feelings for Clara as for Ludwig. For me, if I had to choose, I'd take the Schumann Fantasy to the desert island over either the Liszt B minor or " Appassionata." Fortunately, I dont have to make that choice yet.

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