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8.550783 - SCHUMANN, R.: Kreisleriana / Faschingsschwank aus Wien

Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Kreisleriana Op. 16
Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op. 26 (Carnival in Vienna)
Arabeske Op. 18

Much of the piano music of Schumann was written before his marriage in 1840 to Clara Wieck, a match that her father, once Schumann's piano teacher, had done all he could to prevent. Schumann himself combined literary interests with musical, eventually persuading his widowed mother and his guardian to allow him to leave university and devote his attention to the latter. A weakness in his fingers frustrated his ambition to become a virtuoso pianist and after 1840, a year in which he w rote a vast number of songs, he was encouraged by his young wife to tackle larger orchestral forms. Although widely respected both as a composer and as a writer on musical subjects, he had no official position until his appointment as director of music in Düsseldorf in 1850, his unhappy tenure there interrupted by a break-down and final insanity, leading to his death in 1856.

Schumann was deeply influenced by the writing of E.T.A. Hoffmann and in Kreisleriana, completed in 1838 and dedicated on publication to Chopin, he pays tribute to Hoffmann and his fictional character Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler, used by Hoffmann to express his own ideas of the conflict between the artist and Philistine society. In a letter to Clara, Schumann tells her that the new work is one in which she and one of her ideas play the main part; it is to be dedicated to her and no-one else and as she recognises herself in it she may smile fondly. Comparison between Clara and Kreisler could hardly be flattering, bearing in mind Hoffmann's original descriptive title Lucid Intervals of an Insane Musician.

The eight short pieces that constitute Kreisleriana express varying moods, starting with an agitated D minor, followed by an expressive B flat major piece that includes two contrasted Intermezzi. The first mood returns in a stormy G minor, succeeded by a gentler interlude that serves to introduce an energetic G minor episode. The sixth piece, in a tranquil B flat major, gives way to a turbulent C minor seventh, with its own interlude of counterpoint, relaxing finally as it moves towards the concluding G minor scherzando. Schumann revised Kreisleriana in 1850.

By the year 1839, when he wrote his Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Robert Schumann was deeply involved in a public quarrel with his former teacher and future reluctant father-in-law Friedrich Wieck, who had supported his initial ambitions of a musical career. As a student, however, Schumann lacked application, at least in the technical aspects of the art, while winning an early reputation as a journalist writing on musical subjects and as a composer, in particular, of attractive piano pieces, often in the form of short vignettes rather than more extended compositions. A brief flirtation with another of Wieck's pupils was followed by a more serious attachment to Wieck's youngest daughter Clara, who became Schumann's wife only in 1840, after prolonged litigation between her father and her future husband.

Faschingsschwank aus Wien (Carnival in Vienna), described in a subtitle as Phantasiebilder (fantasy-pictures) for the piano, is dedicated to Schumann's Belgian friend Simonin de Sire and is in five short movements. The first four of these were written in Vienna at carnival time and the fifth after his return home to Leipzig, and the composer later described the whole work as a grand romantic sonata. The opening Allegro is in fact in rondo form and, like the rest of the work, very much in the spirit of the earlier Carnaval, although this first movement is of much greater length. The second movement G minor Romanze serves as a gentle interlude leading to the Scherzino of the third, restoring the original key of B flat major. The energetic E flat minor Intermezzo, with its characteristic figuration, is capped by a vigorous final sonata-form movement, with a particularly winning second subject.

Schumann wrote his Arabeske in the same year, 1839, dedicating it to Frau Majorin Friederike Serre auf Maxen, to whom he also dedicated his Blumenstück. Major Serre and his wife were originally friends of Wieck and in 1837 he had taken his daughter to stay on their country estate at Maxen to avoid Schumann's attentions to Clara, which the Serres in fact encouraged. In the autumn of 1838 Robert Schumann left Leipzig for Vienna. His relationship with Clara Wieck had reached a point of some intensity, but her father's entrenched opposition to anything that might interfere with his daughter's career as a pianist and his very reasonable disapproval of Schumann as a possible son-in-law, had led to a great deal of subterfuge, with a clandestine correspondence between the lovers, carried on as best they could. Wieck had, in any case, insisted that, if the couple were to marry, they should not remain in Leipzig, where Schumann was editor of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. At Clara's suggestion it was proposed that the journal be moved to Vienna, if sponsors could be found there, and this was the principal object of Schumann's journey, hard as it was to be separated from his beloved at a time of some anxiety in their relationship.

In Vienna Schumann was to busy himself with a number of new compositions, including the Arabeske, Opus 18, written towards the end of the year and designed for women, as opposed to the robuster Humoreske to be written in the following year. The composer claimed that his aim was to capture the feminine market for piano music in Vienna, a remark that need not be taken too seriously, At the same time he continued to be influenced by Christian Schuburt's book on musical aesthetics, in which C major, the key of the Arabeske, was identified with the childish and simple, leaving intenser passions to the sharp keys. The Arabeske is well enough known. Couched in rondo form, its gently lyrical principal theme frames two slower, minor key episodes.

Jeno Jandó
The Hungarian pianist Jeno Jandó has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos and sonatas of Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.

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