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8.578083-84 - Easy-Listening Piano Classics: Schumann
Naxos’ Easy-Listening Piano Classics presents a delightful range of music from Baroque masterpieces to beautiful works of the Classic and Romantic eras, specially selected for discerning listeners to enjoy at home or work, while relaxing, entertaining or travelling.
The son of a bookseller, publisher and writer, Robert Schumann (1810–1856) showed early abilities in both music and literature, the second facility used in his later writing on musical subjects. After brief study at university, he was allowed by his widowed mother and guardian to undertake serious study of the piano with Friedrich Wieck, whose favourite daughter Clara was later to become Schumann’s wife. His ambitions as a pianist were thwarted by a weakness in the fingers of one hand, but the 1830s nevertheless brought a number of compositions for the instrument. Indeed, all of his published compositions until 1840 were for piano.
The year of his marriage, 1840, was a year of song, followed by attempts in which his young wife encouraged him at more ambitious forms of orchestral composition. Settling first in Leipzig and then in Dresden, the Schumanns moved in 1850 to Düsseldorf, where Schumann had his first official appointment, as municipal director of music. In 1854 he had a serious mental break-down, followed by two years in the asylum at Endenich before his death in 1856. As a composer Schumann’s gifts are clearly heard in his piano music and in his songs.
Schumann exerted considerable influence throughout the 19th century and later, both as a composer and through his writing on music. His protégé Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) helped to spread Schumann’s ideals and musical style widely. Edward Elgar (1857–1934) called Schumann ‘my ideal’. Composers as different as Mahler and Stravinsky were also great admirers.
The piano music of Schumann, whether written for himself, for his wife, or, in later years, for his children, offers a wealth of material. From the earlier period comes Carnaval, a series of short musical scenes based on the letters of the composer’s name and that of the town of Asch, home of Ernestine von Fricken, a fellow-student of Friedrich Wieck, to whom Schumann was briefly engaged. The same period brought the Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the League of David), a reference to the imaginary league of friends of art against the surrounding Philistines. This decade also brought the first version of the monumental Symphonic Studies, based on a theme by the father of Ernestine von Fricken, and the well known Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood). Later piano music by Schumann includes the Album für die Jugend of 1848, Waldszenen (Forest Scenes) of 1849 and the collected Bunte Blätter (Coloured Leaves) and Albumblätter (Album Leaves) drawn from earlier work.
Schumann achieved considerable innovations, whether in his many short character pieces or in his more substantial compositions, where flamboyance and restraint, high drama and tender lyricism, a co-mingling of literary and musical ideas are all at play. His piano music is frequently multi-layered, the melody may be embedded within a complex texture rather than being limited to the right hand, and he often moves from one idea to another with almost shocking swiftness. Harmonic ambiguity and a sense of fragmentation are frequently encountered, quintessentially Romantic ploys which often add great poignancy to his music.
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8.550401 SCHUMANN: Kreisleriana / Waldszenen / Blumenstück
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