About this Recording
2.110330 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - SCHUMANN, R.: Carnaval / Scenes of Childhood (with scenery and sights from Switzerland and Norway) (NTSC)
English 

Carnival and Scenes of Childhood
With music by Robert Schumann

 

CHAPTERS 1–17

SWITZERLAND Basel Carnival

Carnival in Basel is unique. Celebrated according to the old calendar, a week after the Shrovetide celebrations in Catholic countries, Basel Carnival takes place in the week following Ash Wednesday and lasts from Monday to Thursday, starting and finishing at 4.00 a.m. on the first and last day. During this period the participants in Fasnacht parade through the streets, in procession on Monday and Wednesday, watched by thousands of spectators. The Fasnächtler shower the crowds with confetti and hand out sweets. There are various groups of masked figures, Cliques, playing fifes and drums and wearing appropriate costumes to suit the satirical and topical theme of the occasion or in more traditional garb, but all masked, their identities hidden. Gugge, brass-bands, have their place, all players masked, and Schnitzelbank singers hand out their satirical verses. Floats carry revellers through the streets, some larger, some smaller, among the latter carriages, with people dressed as old ladies, politely handing out presents. The second day is aimed particularly at children, while a spectacular feature of the carnival is the lanterns, which feature as darkness falls and in a final farewell.

Music Schumann: Carnaval, Op 9 – I. Préambule • II. Pierrot • III. Arlequin • IV. Valse noble • V. Eusebius • VI. Florestan – VII. Coquette • VIII. Réplique • IX. Papillons • X. ASCH-SCHA (Lettres dansantes) • XI. Chiarina • XII. Chopin • XIII. Estrella • XIV. Reconnaissance • XV. Pantalon et Columbine • XVI. Valse allemande – Paganini – Valse • XVII. Aveu • XVIII. Promenade • XIX. Pause – XX. Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins

It was in 1830 that the twenty-year-old Robert Schumann persuaded his widowed mother and his guardian to allow him to leave university and, instead, apply himself to musc. He chose to study with a well known teacher, Friedrich Wieck, who had already concentrated much of his attention on his young daughter Clara, who seemed to have a promising career ahead of her as a pianist. Schumann injured his hand by the unwise use of a contraption of his own devising so that career as a performer was no longer possible. During these years, however, he wrote a great deal of music for the piano, including, in 1835, Carnaval. At the heart of the work are cryptograms, the notes Es–C–H–A in German letter notation (E flat–C–B natural–A), As–C–H (A flat–C–B natural) and A–Es–C–H (A–E flat–C–B natural). In 1834 Schumann had contracted a secret engagement with Ernestine von Fricken, a pupil of Wieck and illegitimate daughter of a Baron von Fricken, from the town of Asch. The letters SCHA fitted part of Schumann’s name, while reversed, ASCH spelt Ernestine’s home town of Asch.

Schumann’s Carnaval is a procession of twenty vignettes, including the commedia dell’arte figures Pierrot, Harlequin, Pantaloon and Columbine, as well as the two characters he associated with his own character and writing, the thoughtful Eusebius and the impulsive Florestan. Clara Wieck, at the time a child but destined to become Schumann's wife in 1840, appears as Chiarina, followed in the procession by Chopin and then Ernestine herself, as Estrella. The demon violinist Paganini is framed by a German Waltz and a Promenade leads to Schumann’s final triumphant March of his imagined League of David, set on routing the enemies of true art, the Philistines.

CHAPTER 18

Flowers

Various flowers are seen, sunflowers, poppies and even cactus. There are butterflies, a lady-bird, caterpillar and grasshopper, in a summer idyll.

Music Schumann: Blumenstück, Op 19

In 1838 Schumann set out for Vienna, hoping to explore the possibilities of publication of his music periodical, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. By now he had come to an understanding with Clara Wieck, but not with her father, who continued to object to any marriage that would endanger Clara’s career as a pianist. On his return to Leipzig the following year he began legal proceedings against Wieck, to allow his marriage with Clara. Among his compositions in Vienna was Blumenstück (Flower Piece), originally with the title Guirlande (Garland). The work is in a series of episodes, of which the second, itself varied in key and mood, becomes a recurrent refrain.

CHAPTER 19–32

NORWAY Oslo: Vigeland Park

One of the sights of Oslo is the sculpture park given over to the work of Gustav Vigeland, a place admired by many. Vigeland was the best known Norwegian sculptor, distinguished for various commemorative statues, busts and monuments. In the 1920s he set about the creation of a sculpture park at Frogner in Oslo, with municipal support. Here he created over the years 227 figures in granite or in bronze, representing man, woman and child, in various activities. At the centre of the Sculpture Arrangement, as it was known, is a monolith, some sixty feet high, with 121 figures carved into it. Vigeland added to his vast concept until his death in 1943. The style of his sculpture is immediately recognisable, although reactions to Vigeland's work have been mixed.

Music Schumann: Waldszenen, Op 82 – Eintritt • Kinderszenen, Op 15 – I. Vom fremden Ländern und Menschen (Of Foreign
Lands and People) • II. Curiose Geschichte (A Strange Story) • III. Hasche-Mann (Blind Man’s Buff) • IV. Bittendes Kind (Pleading Child) • V. Glückes genug (Happy Enough) • VI. Wichtige Begebenheit (An Important Event) • VII. Träumerei (Dreaming) • VIII. Am Camin (At the Fireside) • IX. Ritter vom Steckenpferd (Knight of the Hobbyhorse) • X. Fast zu ernst (Almost Too Serious) • XI. Fürchtenmachen (Frightening) XII. Kind im Einnschlummern (Child Falling Asleep) XIII. Der Dichter spricht (The Poet Speaks)

In 1840 Schumann won his law suit against his future father-in-law and married Clara Wieck, who by now enjoyed a reputation as a pianist that exceeded Schumann’s as a composer. The couple settled in Dresden, but in 1848 Dresden became involved in civil conflict, with efforts to replace the monarchy, disturbances from which Schumann took refuge outside the city, later to be joined there by Clara and their children. Their time in Dresden was, in any case, drawing to an end. In 1850, at the age of forty, Schumann took up his first significant official position as director of music in Düsseldorf. In 1854 he suffered a breakdown, attempted suicide and from then until his death in 1856 was confined to an asylum at Endenich. Schumann wrote his Waldszenen (Forest Scenes) in 1848 and 1849. The set of nine pieces starts with Eintritt (Introduction). Among the best known of Schumann’s piano pieces, Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood) was written in 1838. He told Clara that he had composed thirty little pieces and chosen thirteen of these, all designed to express an adult’s memories of childhood, with self-explanatory titles. Vom fremden Ländern und Menschen (Of Foreign Lands and Peoples) leads to Curiose Geschichte (A Strange Story), Hasche-Mann (Catch-As-Catch-Can) and Bittendes Kind (Pleading Child), this last here matched with Vigeland's treatment of a similar figure, a crying child. Glückes genug (Happy Enough) is followed by Wichtige Begebenheit (An Important Event), Träumerei (Dreaming), Am Camin (At the Fireside), Ritter vom Steckenpferd (Knight of the Hobby-horse), Fast zu ernst (Almost Too Serious) and Fürchtenmachen (Frightening). In Kind im Einschlummern (Child Falling Asleep) the glimpses of childhood draw near an end, capped only by Der Dichter spricht (The Poet Speaks), matched with a sculpture figure that suggests a grandfather, Vigeland himself.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Carnaval & Kinderszenen: Jenő Jandó, piano [Naxos 8.550784]
Blumenstück & Waldszenen: Paul Gulda, piano [Naxos 8.550401]


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