Author Topic: Schumann's Shoebox  (Read 53739 times)

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Offline Madiel

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Re: Schumann's Shoebox
« Reply #400 on: July 21, 2017, 03:23:24 AM »
Papillons was not only a revolutionary and probably unprecedented work but also one that, in its extreme atomisation and "jump cuts" between different types of music, is without successors until the twentieth century avant-garde. (Ok, a few other 19th-century composers did imitate it—Dvořák's Silhouettes for one. To my ears less successfully, because Dvořák demands too much of a structure from his materials.) Like I said I can't immediately think of any precedents either, and Schumann wasn't listening to music when he was writing it; he was reading novels by Jean Paul.

Yes, I've read several bits of context about Schumann's love of Jean Paul, and just how literature-focused Schumann was at the time (and indeed, remained in a lot of ways). But he was also madly in love with the music of Schubert as well. He actually compared Jean Paul and Schubert.

The more I look into Schumann the more fascinating I find him.
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Offline amw

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Re: Schumann's Shoebox
« Reply #401 on: July 21, 2017, 03:57:35 AM »
The parallel isn't totally inappropriate—Schubert did write a few pieces that are basically just long strings of waltzes/Ländler/etc, intended for actual dancing at Viennese balls.

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Definitely nothing like Papillons though.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2017, 03:59:11 AM by amw »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Schumann's Shoebox
« Reply #402 on: July 21, 2017, 07:11:02 AM »
For a Schubertian pre-echo of papillons, may try the Polonaises D 824 (good performance with Lili Kraus in fact) and maybe D 599.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2017, 07:20:24 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Schumann's Shoebox
« Reply #403 on: July 21, 2017, 08:03:12 AM »
I also think that the Diabelli variations could have been some inspiration for Schumann's cycles of dances. Although the Diabellis are obviously far more unified than Papillons or later Schumann cycles.

Schumann came comparably late to music, as a teenager he was already extremely well read and writing/translating all kinds of stuff and he did a few semesters of law studies (apparently more drinking and playing piano than actually studying) before he finally decided to focus on music. But some writers like Jean Paul (who was thoroughly German, his real name was Johann Paul Friedrich Richter), E.T.A. Hoffmann, Goethe and Heine remained very important throughout his life.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

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Re: Schumann's Shoebox
« Reply #404 on: January 22, 2018, 12:33:22 PM »
A few timings of Symphony No 1 and No 2 from Reblem and me

Sym. 1   Sym. 2   
    -      38'45   Abbado OM
33'23   42'41   Bernstein, VPO
    -      43'37   Celibidache Munchner
30'02   37'29   Gardiner
29'21   38'01   Gaudenz
30'38   34'47   Goodman
32'46   36'37   Haitink
31'36   35'37   Harnoncourt
32'00   35'50   Jordan
35'28   41'05   Klemperer
33'26   34'40   Konwitschny
30'51   37'09   Kubelik
34'46   39'07   Kubelik BavRSO
32'00   35'38   Masur LG
30'48   33'24   Masur, LPO
29'02      -       Munch BSO
33'49   36'42   Muti NPO
32'14   37'35   Norrington
31'13   33'58   Paray
31'19   38'16   Rattle
32'13   37'33   Sawallisch
33'39   38'08   Sinopoli
30'31   36'22   Szell
29'17   35'51   Zinman

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Schumann's Shoebox
« Reply #405 on: September 23, 2018, 10:15:03 PM »

Schumann Märchenerzählungen - it's a long time since I heard this, it used to be one of the things by Schumann I was very fond of. Hakkinen's has things to say about what they're doing which is once again bringing me back to something which, personally, I probably have only recently started to appreciate -- the way an instrument inspires a performance style.

Quote from: Aapo Hakkinen here
A note about the instruments

Most of these performances are first recordings on period instruments. While less stable than their modern counterparts, the instruments for which Schumann composed greatly facilitate expressing the intimacy and volatility, even the ‘heavenly lightness’ of his music, and paradoxically make it sound more modern.

The clarity and poignancy of Viennese pianos (Streicher, Graf, etc.) were not to Schumann’s liking. At the same time, Érard pianos in Paris and London were already approaching the modern instrument’s tone and touch, prioritising volume and safety. However, in the golden years of French piano building exactly coinciding with Schumann’s creative work, the pianos of Érard’s great rival Pleyel, with their simple, light single escapement action, still retained much of the Viennese Prellmechanik’s directness, precision and sensitivity. This resemblance did not go unnoticed and was in fact greatly appreciated by Chopin and many of his pupils. Chopin called them ‘a perfidious traitor’. A student of his once remarked: ‘what came out perfectly on my solid and robust Érard became brusque and ugly on Chopin’s piano.’ Chopin found instruments such as the Érard destroyed the touch: ‘It makes no difference whether you tap the keys lightly or strike them more forcefully.’

Chopin was also quoted saying, ‘When I feel out of sorts […] I play on an Érard where I easily find a ready-made tone. But when I feel good and strong enough to find my own individual sound, then I need a Pleyel.’² Certainly the action of the instrument heard on this recording, though capable of almost infinite nuance and subtlety, calls for a far more precise and direct touch than that of an Érard piano (the inertia of the Érard’s double escapement action evens out irregularities of touch) and entails a distinctive playing technique quite different from lusher-sounding Érards of the same time, let alone equivalents of our day.

Camille Pleyel (1788–1855) assumed a leading role at Pleyel & Cie in the 1820s, maintaining a close relationship with many famous musicians and artists, including Clara Schumann from 1839—but ‘how was she to use the Pleyel (which she preferred) without insulting Pierre Érard?’³—on the 1850 daguerreotype, Robert and Clara pose at a Pleyel piano.

Pleyels of the 1830s and 1840s in their original set-up are known for their round, warm and sensual sound whose beauty remains unsurpassed in the history of piano building. A contemporary account of the qualities of a Pleyel piano describes the tone as ‘acquiring a special satisfying quality, the upper register bright and silvery, the middle penetrating and intense, the bass clear and vigorous. The striking of the hammers has been designed to give a sound that is pure, clear, even and intense. The carefully made hammers produce—when one plays piano—a sweet and velvety sound that gradually increases in brightness and volume as one applies more pressure on the keyboard.’4 By choice of design, damping was light and not instantaneous, producing a characteristic after-ring equally far from the Viennese and from the modern piano’s aesthetic. Demand for this special beauty was short-lived however, and by the 1860s the vast majority of surviving Pleyels from the 1840s (especially their hammers and stringing) were radically altered to conform to new tastes and requirements.

The elegantly singing, moelleux middle register and the ‘silvery, somewhat veiled’ (Liszt) treble of the early Pleyels, as well as their ability to profile and change character with dynamics, were largely due to the original very soft, as of yet not entirely constructible hammer-felt made of rabbit and hare fur, silk and eider-down, after 1835 also including fibres such as cashmere and vigogne. Pleyel changed to denser, stiffer and more resilient double-layered felt made entirely of wool later than Érard and Pape, only after c. 1847. This modern felt still used in most restorations results in a louder, more brilliant but thin and percussive sound, and a challenging balance between the upper and lower registers.

The grand piano used on this recording was built by Camille Pleyel in 1843. It is essentially identical to the one Chopin owned, with casework of Cuban mahogany with brass inlay. Though once common, such instruments are now rather rare, the majority having been concentrated in Paris where many succumbed to the effects of civil strife and war, notably the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when they were burned, together with harpsichords confiscated from the nobility during the Revolution, for warmth during the siege of Paris. According to the Pleyel archives, our piano, No. 10563, was delivered to Count Joseph de Monti (1766–1850) in April 1843. It stayed in the family’s possession until it was acquired in 2015 from an ascendant’s estate in Nantes. De Monti is an ancient Florentine noble family that settled in Nantes in the 16th century and has included in its ranks countless notable politicians, generals and ecclesiastics (among them Pope Julius III). In the 19th century, the family were stark royalists, and comte Joseph’s famous son, Edouard de Monti (1808–1877), was companion and confidant of the Count of Chambord—Henry V, Legitimist pretender to the throne of France—during his long years of travel in exile. Quite understandably, the piano ended up playing a lesser part in the family, and as a result the 1843 Pleyel never needed to be modified; the hammers, felts, strings and action remain in their original condition.

Johann Gottlieb Kotte (1797–1857), Dresden native and principal clarinettist of the Hofkapelle, is mentioned in Schumann’s diary many times starting from October 1837. In February 1849 when the Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 were composed, Kotte visited Schumann at least five times, and probably provided guidance reflected in the autograph revisions. He is known to have used instruments with eleven keys similar to the one heard on the present recording (Peter van der Poel, 2002, after Heinrich Grenser, Dresden, c. 1810).

The string instruments use gut strings.

Performance notes

Obvious problems regarding performance practice include variable trill beginnings and endings, the use of portamento in string playing, Schumann’s constant employment of >, fp, sf, sfp, ^ and <>—the last one indicating a special warmth or vibrato as well as agogic accent—and the extent to which detached bow strokes and sharply separated articulation might have gained ground and partly replaced earlier connected style and portato in the 1840s. Some of the issues especially pertaining to piano playing include pedalling and arpeggiation.

The usual expectation of Schumann’s generation was constant full pedalling, ‘always as the changes of harmony demand’ (Schumann’s own footnote to Op. 11). However, this was more for the purpose of adding resonance or accentuation than to help legato. ‘Syncopated’ or legato pedalling was still considered advanced in Liszt’s later years, when he recommended its use ‘especially in slow tempi’. Moriz Rosenthal wrote in 1924 of legato pedalling’s general adoption after Liszt’s death, calling it ‘the most distinctive difference between the piano playing of 40 years ago and of today.’5

Gustav Jansen, author of one of the first major Schumann monographs, provides a colourful account of the special magic that Schumann’s own playing exuded. Having secured an invitation to visit the composer’s rooms at twilight, Jansen slipped into his studio unobserved. Only when Schumann paused to light one of his Havana cigars did he become aware of his visitor’s presence. His playing of the Nachtstücke, Op. 23, Jansen reports, ‘sounded as if the pedal were always half down, so completely did the figurations melt into one another. But the melody was delicately set in relief.’6 According to another contemporary listener, Hieronymus Truhn, Schumann played ‘with little accentuation, but with generous use of the pedals.’7 The shape of the Pleyel sound makes long, proto-impressionistic pedalling effects (familiar from Chopin’s most careful markings as well as Schumann’s more sporadic ones) possible.

Other accounts of Schumann’s own playing stem from Oswald Lorenz, who mentioned Schumann’s liberal use of pedal, yet maintained that no excessive blurring of harmonies was evident. Alfred Doerffel contradicted him, describing Schumann’s playing as ‘it seemed as if the pedals were always half down, so that the note groups mingled.’8 Friedrich Wieck (1853) advocated a rather restricted, structural use of the una corda—as an echo effect, or in larger (mainly slow) complete sections with rich chordal accompaniment, instead of switching during continuous phrases.

It is clear that arpeggiation of chords was normal throughout the 19th century, especially in slow movements and accompaniments where it was almost ubiquitous. For example, Domenico Corri (1810) gave a lengthy demonstration of slow and fast arpeggio, and where it was to be avoided (on short notes, successions of octaves ‘unless they are very long notes, or have emphasis’). Samuel Wesley (1829) observed that pianists ‘do not put down the keys simultaneously […] but one after another, beginning at the lowest note.’ Czerny and Thalberg considered arpeggiation in the modern style, especially when accompanying a melody, to be a matter of course. Several reports mention Brahms’s ‘incessant spreading of chords in the slower tempos’ and the piano rolls of, for example, Carl Reinecke (1824–1910) and Theodor Leschetizky (1830–1915) document the tradition of abundant arpeggiation and extensive dislocation between the hands into the early years of the 20th century. Later recordings by Clara Schumann’s pupils (many of them still using pianos with the single escapement action perfected by Camille Pleyel) such as Fanny Davies (1861–1934) and Adelina de Lara (1872–1961) offer further perspective.

In an aphoristic ‘Davidsbündler’ dialogue from Schumann’s Denk- und Dichtbüchlein, Eusebius maintains: ‘Two different readings of the same work can often be of equal value’—to which Meister Raro replies: ‘The original one is usually better.’9 In any case, Schumann’s numerous alterations usually resulted in a less fanciful, less poetic product. We adopted some readings from surviving early versions, which are especially helpful in clarifying his attitude to repeated sections and thus the overall form in Op. 73, Op. 88 and Op. 111.

Claudio Arrau talked of the necessity to ‘live Schumann’—indeed it is a great challenge to try to understand his world in its entirety: other music and instruments (many different kinds of pianos and other keyboard instruments of the time), the literary sensibility and influences, etc. This year has also seen us preparing the composer’s late vocal-orchestral works for concerts and recording. His poetic Hausmusik represents a motion from the outer to the inner world, and a desire to mediate between them—like Jean Paul (1763 –1825), to bathe the quotidian ‘realities of the pastor’s life’ in ‘idealizing moonshine’.10 John Daverio has called breathlessness born of panic, even terror, a key feature of Schumann’s piano style. However, contrary to what has often been suggested, the fragmented forms, depression and Zerrissenheit (‘inner turmoil’) of his early works never quite re-appear in the esoteric late chamber music, giving way to more delicate nuances, the ‘inner voices’, in a heightened intensity of expression—Florestan and Eusebius having become functions of a single character—even in piano works such as the Fantasiestücke, Op. 111 where the whimsical opening Kreisleriana gives way to Schumann’s ‘A flat major soul’ and the finale’s Florestinian pathos. Through every bar, his heart is beating sometimes loud, often soft, but always fast.

Aapo Häkkinen, 2017

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Offline bwv 1080

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Re: Schumann's Shoebox
« Reply #406 on: September 24, 2018, 04:51:29 AM »
Thanks for posting that - just started listening.  The period instruments work really well here, much like in Mozart's piano quartets.  Do you know if there are plans for this ensemble to record more of Schumann's chamber music?
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