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8.557668 - Piano Recital: Kotaro Fukuma
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Abegg-Variations • Novelletten • Drei Fantasiestücke
Until he was thirty, Schumann wrote keyboard music almost exclusively, music which expressed the broad range of his thoughts and feelings and the passionate and reflective aspects of his personality. Through the influence of his parents he learned much about literature, especially the poetic works of Goethe and Byron. His illfated attempt to attend law school, at his mother’s insistence, was soon abandoned in favour of the irresistible attraction to music.
Schumann was always intrigued with games and puzzles, particularly when he could include them in his own music. His first published work, the Abegg Variations of 1830, reflects this fascination with puzzles. The variations take their title from the name of a young pianist, Mme. Meta Abegg, whom Schumann met in early 1830. This is a set of variations with a theme based on the letters of her surname, in German notation A - B flat - E - G - G. The theme is in waltz tempo. This may be simple on its opening presentation, but the three variations are quite complex and brilliant. The theme is marked Animato, presented in a gentle theme in triple metre. The first variation is more stormy with rapid passage-work, and with the rising motif then inverted creating a capricious nuance of harmony. The second features a syncopated rhythm, perhaps expressing a light-hearted conversation. The third variation starts in a running style with rapid triplet figures in the right hand, marked corrente, suggesting a happy young boy running around playfully. A middle section, in cantabile style, in a Sicilian rhythm, almost serves as a fourth variation, but builds up to the conclusion. The Finale, marked alla Fantasia in 6/8 metre, features chromatic descending passages, and could be considered a fifth variation in which Schumann expresses his dreams and expectations. In the middle of the finale, Schumann brings the music to a stop and presents two chords marked ad libitum. The second chord contains the notes of the Abegg theme, and Schumann releases each of these notes in turn until only a solitary G is left echoing quietly. As each note is released, it is as though his friends are leaving one by one until he is alone. Suddenly the theme from the finale returns and rushes away excitedly, ending in both a sophisticated but innocently humorous mode.
In Novelletten, Op. 21, written in 1838, the title, rooted in the word “novel” here becomes a collection of story-like short pieces. Schumann wrote in his letter to Clara describing his new composition, referring jokingly to the well-known soprano Clara Novello:
Five years before his death Schumann wrote a set of three pieces, Drei Fantasiestücke, Op. 111, revealing his deeply troubled emotions and his deteriorating health and spirits. Played without pause, the pieces are strongly connected by the tonalities, C minor in the first, A flat major partly with C minor in the second, and C minor in the third. The first, marked Sehr rasch, mit leidenschaftlichem Vortrag, (Very fast with passionate presentation) is an agitated piece, with its sighing motifs and continuous arpeggios, suggesting a man crying in despair as he rushes through a dark forest. The second piece, Ziemlich langsam, (Somewhat slowly), features an expressive chordal song, very Schubertian in character, with a more agitated middle section, then returning to the song. The melody resembles his Liebeslied from the Dichterliebe. The third, Kräftig und sehr markiert, (Strong and well-marked), is a robust march with a melody alternating between soprano and alto lines, framing a trio with repeated chords answered by graceful mystical descending arpeggios, a texture which then returns in the coda.
Kotaro Fukuma and Karen Knowlton, with assistance from Sarah-Theresa Yoshiko Murakami
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