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Michael Endres Robert Schumann: Piano Works OC 366 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 366
Release date05/11/2004
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Schumann, Robert

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      Humoreske Op. 20 · Toccata Op. 7 · Gesänge der Frühe Op. 133Kinderszenen Op. 15 · Album für die Jugend Op. 68 · Kreisleriana Op. 16“Gesitervariationen” WoO 24 · Faschingsschwank aus wien Op. 26
      Michael Endres, piano

      Michael Endres has been awarded the “Choc de Musique” and the “Diapason d’Or” for his celebrated recordings of works by Franz Schubert and W.A. Mozart (OehmsClassics 253). Now he presents his new recording: piano works by Robert Schumann.

      CD 1
      The four works performed on this CD provide a spectacular demonstration of the enormous range of Schumann’s compositional style: from the boldly brilliant, wildly virtuosic Toccata, Op. 7, via the poetic simplicity of the Kinderszenen, Op. 15 and the complex and powerful structure of the Humoreske, Op. 20 to the notably elusive Gesängen der Frühe, Op. 133.

      Schumann composed his Op. 20 in 1839, giving it the misleading title of Humoreske, which seems applicable only to a small part of the work. Afer a sunny introduction, a first cheerful passage closes with a quotation from the opening section. But immediately there follows an uneasily restless section with a performance indication of “wie außer Tempo” (“as if outside the tempo”), leading to a furiously inflamed march section before finally sinking back into a gentle pianissimo. This already gives an indication of the Humoreske’s structure: each of its four interlinked sections ends reflectively, and in the last movement of all, with wildly fantastical, funereal and disquieting images. The final movement’s brief fury cannot disguise the fact that in the development of the piece the quieter and darker tones increasingly come to dominate. This may perhaps be the reason why the Humoreske is only rarely to be heard in the concert hall, as the style of the composer’s later years here casts its first shadows.

      The stupendously difficult, uncompromising Toccata, Op. 7, ends surprisingly in a gentle pianissimo, as if Schumann discreetly wished to retract what had earlier been said with such virtuosity. Yet the rhythms of this unbelievably vital work are bursting with an excess of energy, confidence and boldness of impulse. Everything here is overdriven: the pitiless motor impulse of double chords, the almost unplayable leaps which lend the music a fantastically explosive quality, and the typically Schumannesque displacements of the bar’s main accent, taken to a point at which the listener can no longer keep up with the changes. Even today this tour de force remains one of the great peaks of piano literature, concealing behind the initially daunting aspects of an étude and the hair-raising difficulties of the piano writing one of the most passionate creations in all of Schumann’s work.

      In contrast, the Gesänge der Frühe Op.-133, written in 1853, and belonging to Schumann’s final creative period, hint at sounds from a different planet. Clara wrote in her diary on 18th October: “Robert has written five Frühgesänge, quite original pieces again, but hard to grasp, for they are so much in his own special style.” To what extent Schumann’s progressively deteriorating state of mind can be traced in these late works cannot be answered satisfactorily, since compositional technique can hardly be weighed against state of mind. This music, each piece turning in on itself, ending in dissolution and disappearance, makes no concessions to the listener, staying clear of all conventional expectations: the melodic treatment is notably eccentric and austere, renouncing rhetorical effects and gestures.

      Against these, the poetic Kinderszenen, Op. 15 sound fresh and uncomplicated. In Schumann’s own words, these are “grownup memories for grown-ups”, an indication that these miniatures are not to be taken as sweetly childish, but totally seriously. Their construction is correspondingly firmly based: the whole cycle is developed from a central motive (B-G-F sharp-E-D) which provides a unifying element throughout the work.

      CD 2
      Composed in 1848, the set of 43 pieces which make up the Album für die Jugend Op. 68, with a performance duration in excess of 70 minutes, represents Schumann’s most extensive work for piano. It is separated into two parts, Nos. 1–18 “Für Kleinere” and Nos. 19–43 “Für Erwachsenere” (“For the littler ones” and “For the more grown-up ones”). It is one of Schumann’s most unusual and multifaceted piano compositions and its significance has never been fully appreciated, even today. It is among the least recorded and performed of Schumann’s works. And yet the whole of Schumann’s cosmos is to be found in this set, from the most intimate poetry (e.g. Nos. 21, 30, 38) to great romantic gestures like Nos. 12 and 31, eerie nightmares like Nos. 23 and 29, and the gloomy, melancholic landscapes so typical of the late works, like Nos. 34, 37, 39 and 41.

      The cycle is a totally shattering profile of spiritual development, beginning with the innocently naïve and childish Nos. 1-5, where no shadows are yet to be found. With No. 6 comes the first small cloud: Das arme Waisenkind (“The poor orphan”) brings a forlorn touch which has to be taken seriously. Thereafter, apart from a short interlude with the Volksliedchen (“Little folksong”) of No. 9, Nos. 10 and 11 are vigorous and vividly expressive pieces, and with Nos. 12 and 13 the cycle for the first time leaves behind – so far as technical demands are concerned – the child’s world. Nos. 14–18 end the first section with no more than passing cloudshadows (the amorphous Kleine Studie, No. 14, and Erster Verlust, No. 16, a first loss which is still bearable).

      In the second section, the tone changes, with a contrast between the friendly A major of Nos. 20, 22, 24 and 28 and the intervening pieces, like the sad Kleine Romanze, No. 19, the magnificently inspired Nos. 21 and 26, the sinister Reiterstück, No. 23, the excited No. 25. With the nightmarish Fremder Mann, No. 29, the set takes a final turn towards a clouded and pensive mood. Apart from the somewhat lighter pieces, Nos. 33, 40 and 43, the remaining ten numbers are wonderful examples of the uniquely introverted world of late Schumann. The lost dreamworld of Nos. 30, 32, 35 and to some extent No. 42, the crazily circling, desparate boastings of the Kriegslied, No. 31, No. 34, entitled Thema but without anything recognizable as a theme, the menacing Matrosenlied (“Sailors’ Song”), No. 37, the shatteringly inspired genius of No. 38, Winterszeit I, or the reminiscence at the end of No. 39, Winterszeit II, where a fragment from Papillons, Op. 2 sounds out again from some remote and distant past. The childishly simple Choral of No. 4, finally becomes in No. 42, Figurierter Choral, an intricate, fantastic image.

      With the folk-song-like Silvesterlied (“Song for New Year’s Eve”) Schumann closes this great cycle, whose complexity and level of inspiration makes it worthy of a place alongside the great early works.

      CD 3
      Robert Schumann composed his Kreisleriana Op. 16 in 1838. These eight fantasies, composed in just eight days, were named after the fantastic figure of Kreisler, the Kapellmeister in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s novel Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (“Kater Murr, the Educated Cat”). Like its literary model, the work is redolent with profound, sombre feeling, and at the same time documents the wonderful melodic inventiveness of the young Schumann, who was 28 years old at the time the work was composed.

      The character of each of the eight fantasies varies widely: the passionate first piece, interrupted by a delicate, fragile middle section, is followed by a song-like, elaborate second piece, which with its two intermediate sections is the longest fantasy. Number three begins in manic, energetic fashion, contrasting with a lush middle section and ending in a resounding catastrophe.

      Numbers 4 and 6 are the centres of tranquillity in the cycle; only occasionally do dark clouds loom. The 5th piece is the eeriest, the most unreal, with (in the first version played here) a transition into the 6th fantasy. The mood of the cycle moves from feverishly restless to hysterically agitated throughout the 7th piece, which leads directly into no.-8, containing an unusual performer’s instruction, “The bass light and free”. This results in the left and right hands working almost independently of each other with disturbing effect. The Kreisleriana ends in an eerie pianissimo, almost a dark presentiment of the deeply moving “Geistervariationen” of 1854. During the composition of these variations, Schumann threw himself into the Rhine (on 27th February), then continued work after surviving his suicide attempt.

      By this time, Schumann had been suffering from depression for many years, which is doubtless responsible for the almost helpless, calm despair of this work which, no longer occupied with dramatic effect, frees itself from accustomed tonal structures (Schumann claimed that the theme had been “dictated by angels”). The last of the 5 variations, in which a continual, no longer controllable dissonance emerges, signified the tragic end of Schumann’s creative work, as he was to spend the two remaining years until his death in the asylum in Endenich, unable to compose.

      The Faschingsschwank Op. 26, composed in 1839, shows a completely different, light-hearted side of Schumann. However, the title “Faschingsschwank aus Wien” also reveals that the work is about a masquerade, i.e. that the bold cheerfulness is possibly only a facade concealing a quite different reality. Movements 1, 3 and 5 positively bubble with optimism and youthful energy, but despite its brilliance, the piano scoring remains strangely compact, i.e. the extreme registers are used only rarely and in a broken manner, which means that the timbre is rather dark. The restless last movement also has more of bustling hurry than pianistic, instrumental brilliance.

      The Romanze is a brooding, intimate and almost brittle piece, while the Intermezzo sinks into the deeper registers after a period of passionate turbulence. The imagery of the title cannot cover up the fact that the long periods of sustained lightheartedness in combination with extremely homophonic piano scoring make this work exceptional among Schumann’s compositions, even though it is a fascinating facet of his large and original piano repertoire.

      Michael Endres
      Translation: Mike Yarrow

      Tracklist hide

      hideCD 1
      • Humoreske Op. 20
        • 1.Einfach – sehr rasch und leicht – noch rascher – erstes Tempo – wie am Anfang06:03
        • 2.Hastig – nach und nach immer lebhafter und stärker – wie vorher – Adagio04:47
        • 3.Einfach und zart – Intermezzo – (wie vorher) innig07:11
        • 4.Sehr lebhaft – mit einigem Pomp – zum Beschluss – Allegro10:38
      • 5.Toccata Op. 707:22
      • Gesänge der Frühe Op. 133
        • 6.1. Im ruhigen Tempo02:48
        • 7.2. Belebt, nicht zu rasch01:47
        • 8.3. Lebhaft02:39
        • 9.4. Bewegt02:09
        • 10.5. Im Anfange ruhiges, im Verlauf bewegtes Tempo02:36
      • Kinderszenen Op. 15
        • 11.1. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen01:28
        • 12.2. Kuriose Geschichte01:15
        • 13.3. Hasche-Mann00:32
        • 14.4. Bittendes Kind00:56
        • 15.5. Glückes genug01:44
        • 16.6. Wichtige Begebenheit00:48
        • 17.7. Träumerei00:38
        • 18.8. Am Kamin01:07
        • 19.9. Ritter vom Steckenpferd00:43
        • 20.10. Fast zu ernst01:42
        • 21.11. Fürchtenmachen01:47
        • 22.12. Kind im Einschlummern02:05
        • 23.13. Der Dichter spricht02:29
      • Total:01:05:14
      moreCD 2
      • Album für die Jugend Op. 68
        • 1.1. Melodie01:03
        • 2.2. Soldatenmarsch00:51
        • 3.3. Trällerliedchen00:51
        • 4.4. Ein Choral01:16
        • 5.5. Stückchen00:49
        • 6.6. Armes Waisenkind01:56
        • 7.7. Jägerliedchen01:01
        • 8.8. Wilder Reiter00:35
        • 9.9. Volksliedchen01:15
        • 10.10. Fröhlicher Landmann, von der Arbeit zurückkehrend00:43
        • 11.11. Sizilianisch01:15
        • 12.12. Knecht Ruprecht01:47
        • 13.13. Mai, lieber Mai, – bald bist Du wieder da!01:48
        • 14.14. Kleine Studie01:53
        • 15.15. Frühlingsgesang02:09
        • 16.16. Erster Verlust01:19
        • 17.17. Kleiner Morgenwanderer01:19
        • 18.18. Schnitterliedchen01:01
        • 19.19. Kleine Romanze00:55
        • 20.20. Ländliches Liedchen01:41
        • 21.21. * * * (Langsam und mit Ausdruck zu spielen)02:00
        • 22.22. Rundgesang01:44
        • 23.23. Reiterstück01:14
        • 24.24. Ernteliedchen01:17
        • 25.25. Nachklänge aus dem Theater01:25
        • 26.26. * * * (Nicht schnell, hübsch vorzutragen)02:11
        • 27.27. Kanonisches Liedchen01:35
        • 28.28. Erinnerung (4. November 1847)01:47
        • 29.29. Fremder Mann02:22
        • 30.30. * * * (Sehr langsam)03:12
        • 31.Kriegslied01:22
        • 32.Sheherazade02:59
        • 33.„Weinlesezeit – fröhliche Zeit“01:48
        • 34.Thema01:58
        • 35.Mignon02:35
        • 36.Lied italienischer Marinari01:30
        • 37.Matrosenlied03:16
        • 38.Winterszeit I02:16
        • 39.Winterszeit II03:31
        • 40.Kleine Fuge (Vorspiel – Fuge)02:50
        • 41.Nordisches Lied („Gruß an G.“ [Niels W. Gade])01:54
        • 42.Figurierter Choral01:42
        • 43.Sylvesterlied02:40
      • Total:01:14:35
      moreCD 3
      • Kreisleriana Op. 16
        Eight Fantasies for Pianoforte
        • 1.1. Äußerst bewegt02:51
        • 2.2. Sehr innig09:12
        • 3.3. Sehr aufgeregt04:26
        • 4.4. Sehr langsam04:10
        • 5.5. Sehr lebhaft03:20
        • 6.6. Sehr langsam04:36
        • 7.7. Sehr rasch02:10
        • 8.8. Schnell und spielend03:34
      • Theme with Variations in E flat major WoO 24 (“Geistervariationen”)
        • 9.Thema01:37
        • 10.Var. I01:13
        • 11.Var. II01:29
        • 12.Var. III01:36
        • 13.Var. IV01:43
        • 14.Var. V02:06
      • Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op. 26
        • 15.1. Allegro08:31
        • 16.2. Romanze03:14
        • 17.3. Scherzino02:05
        • 18.4. Intermezzo02:05
        • 19.5. Finale05:40
      • Total:01:05:38