GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: Lilas Pastia on October 04, 2012, 09:24:47 AM

Title: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Lilas Pastia on October 04, 2012, 09:24:47 AM
Starting a thread to find the ever elusive: what work do you consider the very essence of a composer?

It can be, but does not have to be a work one keeps returning to. It can be, but does not have to be your favourite work of his. It can be instrumental, chamber, orchestral, vocal etc.

For me it would be a work I consider to be totally and uniquely attributable to this particular composer. A work that contains many traits that characterize his aesthetic and artistic personality, his compositional technique, his particular sound world, IOW that is immediately recognizable as that of Schumann.

My nominee is symphony no. 4 in d minor. My favourite Schumann piece and the one I listen to most often is the piano concerto. But I find that the 4th symphony is the one that is the most characteristic of this composer.

I find in it all the attributes that are present into his music: it is structurally daring but awkward, it contains magnificent themes that are sharply contrasted. Its instrumentation is entirely appropriate to the rythmic and melodic material. Its moods are very varied and encompass anguish, swagger, proud utterances and introspective ones, driving rythms and passage of intense majesty and romantic yearning. It's the most kaleidoscopically schumannian outside his piano works (such as Kreisleriana).

What is your quintesential Schumann work?
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Scarpia on October 04, 2012, 09:43:05 AM
Do you consider the original (1841) or revised (1841) version to be closer to the essence of Schumann?  Brahms reputedly strongly preferred the original version and arranged for its publication.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Lilas Pastia on October 04, 2012, 10:24:08 AM
I haven't heard the original version (I think Gardiner recorded it) nor the Mahler revision (I have the Chailly set safely sleeping on my shelves), only the widely used revised version that everybody and their uncle has conducted since the work was created.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on October 04, 2012, 10:58:39 AM
I'll agree with you in key, André, but a different work.  For essential Schumann, if one eschew the Lieder, then I think one still needs to turn to the chamber music.  So my vote will be cast for the d minor Violin Sonata, Op.121.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on October 04, 2012, 11:06:12 AM
I'll agree with you in key, André, but a different work.  For essential Schumann, if one eschew the Lieder, then I think one still needs to turn to the chamber music.  So my vote will be cast for the d minor Violin Sonata, Op.121.

I admit, though, that it was only with reluctance that I set aside the Cello Concerto and the Piano Quintet in Eb.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Scarpia on October 04, 2012, 11:13:55 AM
I haven't heard the original version (I think Gardiner recorded it) nor the Mahler revision (I have the Chailly set safely sleeping on my shelves), only the widely used revised version that everybody and their uncle has conducted since the work was created.

Gardiner did it.  I have Harnoncourt's recording of the original 4th, which I like a lot (he did both versions at different times). 

I guess my idea for the most characteristic piece would be most common answer, the Fantasia in C.  Maybe the symphonic etudes.

Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 04, 2012, 11:18:06 AM
Starting a thread to find the ever elusive: what work do you consider the very essence of a composer?

It can be, but does not have to be a work one keeps returning to. It can be, but does not have to be your favourite work of his. It can be instrumental, chamber, orchestral, vocal etc.

For me it would be a work I consider to be totally and uniquely attributable to this particular composer. A work that contains many traits that characterize his aesthetic and artistic personality, his compositional technique, his particular sound world, IOW that is immediately recognizable as that of Schumann.

My nominee is symphony no. 4 in d minor. My favourite Schumann piece and the one I listen to most often is the piano concerto. But I find that the 4th symphony is the one that is the most characteristic of this composer.

I find in it all the attributes that are present into his music: it is structurally daring but awkward, it contains magnificent themes that are sharply contrasted. Its instrumentation is entirely appropriate to the rythmic and melodic material. Its moods are very varied and encompass anguish, swagger, proud utterances and introspective ones, driving rythms and passage of intense majesty and romantic yearning. It's the most kaleidoscopically schumannian outside his piano works (such as Kreisleriana).

What is your quintesential Schumann work?
Excellent choice. There are probably three that I would choose from: Sympony No.4, Kinderszenen, and Dichterliebe. I think all of these capture his essence beautifully. But if forced to pick one, I think I'd actually go with Kinderszenen. I can listen to this endlessly. Just listening to 'Child Falling Asleep' and that has this beautiful haunting sound at the start (which I envision as one not wanting to sleep or perhaps fear of it), which then opens up into this 'safe' melody. The piece has everything you described for the 4th symphony. By the way, here is my favorite version (you will need real player I think): http://www.rsi.ch/argerich/player.cfm?lng=1&idc=19937 (http://www.rsi.ch/argerich/player.cfm?lng=1&idc=19937). Here was the recital from that day: http://www.rsi.ch/argerich/welcome.cfm?lng=1&ids=489&idc=18528 (http://www.rsi.ch/argerich/welcome.cfm?lng=1&ids=489&idc=18528)
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: North Star on October 04, 2012, 11:30:49 AM
I'll agree with you in key, André, but a different work.  For essential Schumann, if one eschew the Lieder, then I think one still needs to turn to the chamber music.  So my vote will be cast for the d minor Violin Sonata, Op.121.
I admit, though, that it was only with reluctance that I set aside the Cello Concerto and the Piano Quintet in Eb.

Earlier, when I first saw this topic, I was thinking of exactly those three - in fact, I'm listening to du Pré & Barenboim in the Cello Concerto now.  8)
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Sammy on October 04, 2012, 11:55:44 AM
For me, Schumann's essence has to be in works that strongly highlight his two alter-egos.  My pick is Kreisleriana.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: DavidW on October 04, 2012, 12:35:33 PM
I agree with Sammy, it has to be something bipolar.  Symphony #4 is not true Schumann.  It has to be from his piano music or closely related.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Ten thumbs on October 04, 2012, 12:45:48 PM
The ultimate expression of Schumann's split personality is surely Carnaval. However, any representative work should also illustrate his obsession with making every opus an integrated thematic entity. Almost any of his piano sets would do this, but so would the Symphony. I'll settle for Carnaval.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Lilas Pastia on October 04, 2012, 01:24:48 PM
The ultimate expression of Schumann's split personality is surely Carnaval. However, any representative work should also illustrate his obsession with making every opus an integrated thematic entity. Almost any of his piano sets would do this, but so would the Symphony. I'll settle for Carnaval.

Well said (Schumann's obsession for integrated thematic entity). Of course there are a number of works to choose from, in different genres, which is great, as it shows he was a composer of many facets. The Piano Quintet, Carnaval, Symphonic Etudes and Fantasia are good cases in point, whereas the ever adorable concerto is not, for obvious reasons (it's really two works independently composed at different times conflated in a concertante structure).

Karl, I love the G major violin sonata too, my very first disc of anything schumannian (can't recall the violinist, but the pianist was Malcolm Frager and the label BASF). My first exposure to the composer's quirky way with themes, development, and shifting moods.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: madaboutmahler on October 04, 2012, 01:50:43 PM
I certainly agree with the 4th symphony! Absolutely love that work, it recieves a weekly listen from me! (every Saturday on the train journey back from the academy :) ) So, it's probably one of the works I listen to most often!
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: OrchestralNut on October 04, 2012, 01:54:00 PM
For me:

Fantasy in C, Carnival

His piano trios

Symphony No. 2

Piano/Cello/Violin Concertos
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: madaboutmahler on October 04, 2012, 01:59:30 PM
Ah yes, definitely the 2nd symphony, C Major Fantasie and Piano Concerto too! Thank you for reminding me, Ray! :)
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Lilas Pastia on October 04, 2012, 02:01:49 PM
Guys, walk the plank ! Be men and make ONE choice!  ;)
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: CaughtintheGaze on October 04, 2012, 02:02:52 PM
Davidsbundlertanze
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Sammy on October 04, 2012, 02:11:21 PM
Davidsbundlertanze

That's a great pick for Schumann's essence.  However, it's clear from some other entries that the alter-ego theme is not thought to be the real essence. 
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: CaughtintheGaze on October 04, 2012, 02:14:24 PM
That's a great pick for Schumann's essence.  However, it's clear from some other entries that the alter-ego theme is not thought to be the real essence.

Well the alter-ego was only part of why I chose the work. I mainly chose it for it being a keyboard work and because of its romantic lyricism, both which I think suit Schumann's character.
Title: Re: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on October 04, 2012, 02:23:49 PM
Guys, walk the plank ! Be men and make ONE choice!  ;)

Bust heads, André! ; )
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Sammy on October 04, 2012, 02:27:37 PM
Well the alter-ego was only part of why I chose the work. I mainly chose it for it being a keyboard work and because of its romantic lyricism, both which I think suit Schumann's character.

I don't understand what you're getting at here.  Schumann wrote a ton of keyboard works and just about all his compositions (keyboard or otherwise) are strong on romantic lyricism.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: CaughtintheGaze on October 04, 2012, 02:29:21 PM
I don't understand what you're getting at here.  Schumann wrote a ton of keyboard works and just about all his compositions (keyboard or otherwise) are strong on romantic lyricism.

Yes, but not all of them were as explicit with the alter ego, which I think is a component I consider necessary. I just meant that statement to say that I didn't choose it solely because of it.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Sammy on October 04, 2012, 02:32:48 PM
Yes, but not all of them were as explicit with the alter ego, which I think is a component I consider necessary. I just meant that statement to say that I didn't choose it solely because of it.

Okay, and I agree about the explicit nature of Davidsbundlertanze and Kreisleriana.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: CaughtintheGaze on October 04, 2012, 02:34:14 PM
Okay, and I agree about the explicit nature of Davidsbundlertanze and Kreisleriana.

That was the other composition that was in the race, for me.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: North Star on October 04, 2012, 08:54:28 PM
Guys, walk the plank ! Be men and make ONE choice!  ;)
Carnaval
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: mszczuj on October 05, 2012, 02:37:23 AM
Kreisleriana.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: Jo498 on June 23, 2014, 12:16:33 PM
I like Carnaval, but there is not enough of the "dark side", the Hoffmannian gothic romantic in this piece which may be the most obviously brilliant of his longer pieces. So I'd go with Kreisleriana or Davidsbündlertänze. Of the song cycles I'd nominate the Eichendorff op.39 before Dichterliebe. Dichterliebe is great, of course, but I am not always sure if Schumann is not too serious for the ironic Heine. The Eichendorff-Lieder are all romantic longing (with some dark undertones, like in "Zwielicht")
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: EigenUser on June 23, 2014, 01:34:06 PM
Interesting that this thread surfaces today. The day before yesterday I was in the car listening to the quadruple horn concerto (Konzertstuck) and I was thinking that this a particularly Schumann-y work. I have no idea why that piece isn't more well-known. It is absolutely captivating from the emphatic first two notes to the end.

The 4th symphony also is a good example -- perhaps more so since there are more "stormy" sections. Basically, anything with a lot of jumpy dotted rhythms juxtaposed with lyrical, flowing melodies and major/minor transitions that seem like they shouldn't work, but they somehow do. Maybe this doesn't make sense, but that's what Schumann is to me.
Title: Re: The essence of Schumann can be found in THIS work
Post by: amw on June 23, 2014, 02:34:59 PM
Kreisleriana | Fantasy in C

Part of the essence of Schumann is putting seemingly incompatible and disparate elements together to form a kind of unity. Therefore I choose these two as the two halves of Schumann: light and darkness. Two halves of the same work.

Alternately, I guess the Humoreske could do.