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Herbert Schuch Nachtstücke OC 733 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 733
Release date04/03/2009
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Holliger, Heinz
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
  • Ravel, Maurice
  • Schumann, Robert
  • Skriabin, Alexander

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      Robert Schumann: Nachtstücke op. 23
      Heinz Holliger: Elis · Alexander Skriabin: Sonate Nr. 9
      Maurice Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit
      W.A. Mozart: Adagio KV 540
      Herbert Schuch, Klavier

      Herbert Schuch’s concert programmes are always characterised by a love for dramaturgical detail, with a dash of daring and joy in experimenting. The listeners benefit from a new outlook on well-known works of music and encounter with pieces seldom performed whose coherence is astonishing.
      In Maurice Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit”, a measure of the virtuoso skills of any pianist, he shows every nuance of his dexterity, but especially his talent for “telling” the music and taking the audience with him into a musical cosmos. In addition to this, his personal understanding of Schumann adds an inner logic to the music that one is rarely allowed to hear. The CD furthermore strikes the listener with the internal coherence of the works which Schuch plausibly explains in an interview printed in the accompanying CD booklet.

      Humour in the night
      Florian Olters talks with Herbert Schuch about the works on this CD

      “The night awakens peculiar feelings and lends everything a sentimental tone in that the exterior world, whether hidden by darkness or illuminated by twilight, does not immediately excite the imagination but lets emotions prevail, with the result that all of the soul’s activities turn inward.”/i> Mr. Schuch, to what extent does this quote from Aesthetik der Tonkunst by Ferdinand Hand (1841) fit this CD?
      The reference to Robert Schumann is evident. It is known that Schumann was occupied with Hand’s work. Nevertheless, I have one objection: his Nocturnes are not all “hidden by darkness or illuminated by twilight”. They contain everything, including eeriness, bizarre and subtle humour. It is still unknown how the title Nocturnes came to be. There is some speculation that it was connected with the death of his brother.

      What do you think?
      My opinion is that the Nocturnes are related to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s narrative work. Schumann’s Nocturnes were originally intended to be called “Funereal fantasies”. In addition, Schumann originally gave the four pieces titles that he then rejected before publication. The first piece was called “Funeral march”, the next “Curious company”, the third “Nocturnal feast” and the last “Canon with solo voices”. This all calls to mind Hoffmann’s Fantasy Pieces in Callot’s Manner. And Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit as well.

      Particularly because the individual movements from Ravel’s work, which was inspired by Aloysius Bertrand’s 1842 eponymous poem, also has titles and themes that are no less bizarre: Ondine (the mermaid Undine), Le gibet (the hanged man on the gallows at twilight) and Scarbo (a bogeyman or demon that disturbs people as they sleep).
      There are in fact amazing connections between Callot, Hoffmann, Schumann, Bertrand and Ravel. On the one hand, there are Schumann’s Nocturnes and Hoffmann’s Fantasy Pieces in Callot’s Manner (based on the French illustrator Jacques Callot). On the other hand, in the third piece of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit (Scarbo) in the poem by

      Bertrand, there is a quote from Hoffmann’s Nocturnes. Preceding the verses, Bertrand cites Hoffmann, who in turn refers to Callot. But there’s more. Bertrand’s verses, which inspired Ravel, are Fantasy Pieces in Rembrandt’s and Callot’s Manner – according to Bertrand’s subtitle. The allusions are quite apparent – whether conscious or unconscious. Ultimately, this affects Schumann’s and Ravel’s works, directly or indirectly.

      Gustav Mahler also conceived the slow movement from his First Symphony “in Callot’s manner”. Were these connections clear to you when you began developing the program?
      The program for the CD evolved intuitively. First of all, I definitely wanted to play Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, which is an immense challenge for every pianist. While looking for adequate pieces to couple the Ravel with, I came across Schumann’s Nocturnes. It was no major step from Schumann to Heinz Holliger, because Holliger’s works are closely related to Schumann’s. As I played these three different works in concerts, I noticed that they are basically tone paintings that follow a certain musical poetry. I thus wanted to integrate a dramatic core and thus added Alexander Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 9 (“Black Mass” ) and Mozart’s Adagio.

      Can’t one also hear a certain romantic tone poetry in Mozart’s Adagio that to some extent anticipates Schumann’s sense of romanticism?
      Of course. Take the G.P.s at the end of the development: they are like white spots – they leave one at a loss. The Adagio is by Mozart – but is highly atypical for him. It is quite noteworthy for its time. Mozart wasn’t commissioned to write it; it came out of his own deep need to compose it. In regard to lack of unity, the Fantasy in C Minor also certainly has something Schumann-like about it. If Schumann had known the Adagio, he certainly would have revised his opinion of Mozart.

      What connections do you hear between Mozart’s Adagio and Scriabin’s Black Mass?
      First of all, both pieces match each other formally: they are both written in sonata form. Apropos formal compositional procedures: there are also parallels between Schumann and Ravel. It may be that Schumann’s tone poetry describes emotional states while Ravel’s music conveys a depth of emotion through a sensual, colorful and brilliant surface of sound. But similar to Schumann, Ravel develops a melody in Ondine that is constantly revealed in a new light. Just recall the first Nocturne by Schumann.

      Although in Schumann, the transformation takes place primarily at the semantic level: a proud march progressively becomes a shadowy hustling.
      That’s true. Schumann strings together semantics and various ideas to produce contrast. But – and this decisive: a great synthesis does develop. The contrasts in his music are not always moody and abrupt but flow into each other. This is what ultimately determines the form of his pieces – which are to some extent structured based on transitions.

      To what degree can one speak of humour?
      I think that at that time, humour had much to do with contrast. Ludwig van Beethoven, for example, was often rebuked for his bizarre attitude, which primarily meant the angular, contrasting and brusk manner of his music. Conservative circles considered his late works to be bizarre. In the 1830s, these characteristics were classified under the term “romantic humour”. According to this, humour is the principle of contrast or the combination of things that don’t actually belong together. Humour does not necessarily have to do with

      a funny mood, but is a certain philosophy of life. This is very marked in Schumann.

      And in Holliger’s music? One frequently reads that Holliger is a “modern Schumann” because his music uses melodiousness to express a spiritual impulse.
      Well, the styles and means of expression may have changed but it is well known that Holliger is a fan of Schumann. What one hears in Holliger’s music in any case is humour in the romantic sense – i.e. contrast. In Elis – Three Nocturnes (1961/66), events throughout the pieces are organized according to measures. These are short figures and gestures. I sense a strong gestural element in Holliger’s music. And I feel parallels to Ravel as well.

      How so?
      First of all, he explores many sound possibilities – there is a sensual sound to his works. In contrast, Schumann’s Nocturnes almost never stray from the middle range of the piano – this is a music that strongly illuminates its center. In Holliger’s music, the distribution of sound in space is an essential characteristic and points to Ravel.

      But how is humour expressed in Ravel’s music?
      There are many sides to humour. Sándor Végh once said that humour is a form of “being super- serious”. In this sense, Le gibet is a superserious piece. Dead people hanging from the gallows, observed in the twilight: Callot has drawings which depict dozens hanging at the gallows. One can find this horrible, but one can also laugh in horror. Le gibet is a pitchblack night painting; this is where one can make a connection to Scriabin’s Black Mass. In this work, Scriabin cites Franz Liszt’s Faust Symphony (among other works) and reinterprets the bell motive from Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov as well.

      How does Ravel work?
      There is a monstrous inevitability to Le gibet. Similar to Scriabin’s bell motive, Ravel insistently uses tone repetitions, although Scriabin makes such repetitions even more dramatic through tempo increases. Apropos Black Mass: Beethoven called the B Minor of Mozart’s Adagio the “black key”.

      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Heinz Holiger:

      I. „Elis, wenn die Amsel im
      Schwarzen Walde ruft,
      Dieses ist dein Untergang.“
      (aus „An den Knaben Elis“)

      II. „Blaue Tauben
      Trinken nachts den eisigen
      Der von Elis’ kristalliner Stirne
      (aus „Elis II“)

      III. „Ein goldener Kahn
      Schaukelt, Elis, dein Herz am
      Einsamen Himmel.“
      (aus „Elis I“)

      Georg Trakl

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • Robert Schumann (1810–1856) Nachtstücke op. 23
        • 1.1. Mehr langsam, oft zurückhaltend06:11
        • 2.2. Markiert und lebhaft04:48
        • 3.3. Mit großer Lebhaftigkeit03:18
        • 4.4. Ad libitum – Einfach03:53
      • Heinz Holliger (*1939) Elis – Drei Nachtstücke
        • 5.I02:01
        • 6.II02:47
        • 7.III02:43
      • Alexander Skriabin (1872–1915)
        • 8.Sonata No. 9 op. 68 “Messe noire”09:18
      • Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) Gaspard de la nuit
        • 9.I Ondine06:46
        • 10.II Le Gibet06:39
        • 11.III Scarbo09:27
      • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
        • 12.Adagio in B minor KV 54008:22
      • Total:01:06:13