About this Recording
8.572374 - Piano Recital: Kim, Mariya - SCHUMANN, R.

Mariya Kim: Piano Recital
Robert Schumann (1810–1856): Studien nach Capricen von Paganini, Op 3 • Sechs Konzert-Etüden nach Capricen von Paganini, Op 10 • Humoreske, Op 20


Robert Schumann is in many ways typical of the age in which he lived, combining in his music a number of the principal characteristics of Romanticism, as he did in his life. Born in Zwickau in 1810, the son of a bookseller, publisher and writer, he showed an early interest in literature and was to make a name for himself in later years as a writer and as editor of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, a journal launched in 1834. His father encouraged his literary and musical interests and at one time thought of sending him to study with Weber, a proposal that was abandoned with the death of the latter, closely followed by the death of Schumannʼs father.

Schumannʼs career now followed a more conventional course. In 1828 he entered the University of Leipzig, where his attention to his studies was as intermittent as it was to be the following year at Heidelberg. He was eventually able to persuade his mother and guardian that he should be allowed to study music under the well- known piano teacher Friedrich Wieck, whose own energies had been directed with some intensity towards the training of his daughter Clara, a pianist of prodigious early talent. Schumannʼs ambitions as a pianist, however, were frustrated by a weakness in the fingers, whatever its true cause, and his other musical studies had, at the very least, lacked application. Nevertheless in the 1830s he wrote a great deal of music for the piano, often in the form of shorter, genre pieces, with some extra-musical literary or autobiographical association. There was an affair with one of Wieckʼs pupils, later broken off, but by 1835 he had begun to turn his attention to Clara Wieck, nine years his junior. Wieck had good reason to object to the liaison. His daughter had a career before her as a concert performer and Schumann had shown signs of instability of character, whatever his abilities as a composer might be. Matters were taken to an extreme when resort was had to litigation, in order to prevent what Wieck saw as a disastrous marriage.

It was not until 1840 that Schumann was eventually able to marry Clara, after her fatherʼs legal attempts to oppose the match had finally failed. The couple married in September, remaining first in Leipzig, although journeys took place for concert appearances by Clara, generally accompanied by her husband, whose position was of lesser distinction. In 1844 they moved to Dresden, where it seemed that Schumann might recover from the bouts of depression that he had suffered in the earlier days of marriage. Here again no official position seemed to offer itself and it was only in 1849 that the prospect of employment arose, this time in Düsseldorf, where Schumann took up his position as director of music in 1850.

Mendelssohn had enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the Düsseldorf authorities, and Schumann, much less skilled in administration and conducting, proved even less able to cope with the difficulties that arose. The pressures on him led to a complete nervous break-down in 1853 and final years spent in an asylum at Endenich, where he died in 1856.

In April 1830 Schumann had travelled to Frankfurt to hear the violinist Niccolò Paganini, who was causing a sensation wherever he went through his dazzling technical performances and achievement of musical feats that would have been thought impossible. The young Liszt, in Paris, was inspired by his example, and Schumann too, although he might not have approved of the histrionic elements of Paganiniʼs performance, was similarly impressed. Paganini was to be enrolled in Schumannʼs imagined League of David, against the Philistines, and was to appear in Schumannʼs Carnaval a few years later. His experience in Frankfurt may, indeed, have been a motivating factor in his decision to abandon law and devote himself to music. Much that Paganini wrote was reserved for his own exclusive concert use, but in 1820 he had published in Milan his set of Capricci, Op 1, for solo violin, a remarkable collection of studies that have since formed an essential element in the training of any violinist.

Schumannʼs Studien nach Capricen von Paganini, Op 3, written in 1832, must seem remarkably ambitious for a young man of 22, now only into his second year of serious musical training. The work is a set of six piano studies, accompanied by pedagogical advice and exercises. In his Preface Schumann claims to have sought to do more than simply add a bass accompaniment to Paganiniʼs Caprices, and suggests various Piano Methods, adding recommendation in particular of some of the Preludes and Fugues from Bachʼs The Well-Tempered Clavier. Schumann first tackles Paganiniʼs Caprice No 5 in A minor, doubling at the octave the arpeggios and scales of its introduction and chromatic A major postlude. The original Caprice is generally played spiccato, while Schumann suggests contrast between staccato and legato in the right hand. Study No 2 takes Paganiniʼs Caprice No 9 in E major, its double-stopping now in the right hand, while the added left-hand accompaniment involves wide leaps, with some doubling at the octave in the central A minor section. Study No 3, based on Caprice No 11 in C major, shortens the original piece, with its multiple stopping, offering the opening section only as a simple interlude. Study No 4, following Caprice No 13 in B flat major, offers an exercise in thirds for the right hand, its central G minor section marked by Schumann Un poco più lento. Study No 5, after Caprice No 19 in E flat major, opens with the descending octaves of the original, continuing, as Paganini had, with contrasts of dynamics in the outer sections and in the central C minor passage. Study No 6, based on Caprice No 16 in G minor, provides initial activity for the left hand, which takes the original melodic line in an exercise in accented and unaccented notes.

In 1833 Schumann returned again to Paganiniʼs Caprices, now with a set of six Konzert-Etüden, Op 10, published in 1835 and, as their title suggests, intended for concert performance. The set opens with an Etude based on Caprice No 12 in A flat major, now treated with greater freedom. Etude No 2, after Caprice No 6 in G minor, its melody, originally accompanied by oscillating hemidemisemiquavers, now with thirds accompanying the legato melody, and a necessary change of figuration in the second part, corresponding to the different changes in the original piece. Etude No 3 is based on Caprice No 10 in G minor. Again the original piece is treated with some freedom, the opening scales now in octaves and with contrasts which on the violin might have been achieved by changes of string reflected in more extreme changes of register. Etude No 4 takes Paganiniʼs Caprice No 4 in C minor, a study in double stopping with passages of tenths, and introduces elements of imitation between right and left hand, hand-crossing and fuller textures. Etude No 5 is a version of Caprice No 2 in B minor, for the violin, a study in extensions, and in Schumannʼs arrangement of relatively clear texture, while involving some wide leaps. Etude No 6, based on Caprice No 3 in E major, replaces the opening octaves of the E minor introduction with fuller arpeggiated chords. The following passage, originally Presto, is for Schumann Allegro, with the same semiquaver figuration, the piece ending Sostenuto, as it had begun.

In the autumn of 1838 Schumann travelled to Vienna, where he spent the winter. The compositions he wrote there included his Humoreske, Op 20, in March 1839, a work he later described to Clara as his most melancholy, although any melancholy, as in the occasional excursions into G minor, appear only in contrast with the generally more cheerful tone of the work. Schumannʼs literary idol, Jean Paul, had devoted some attention to the German concept of Humor, with its contrasts of mood, and these contrasts are embedded in Schumannʼs Humoreske. It was dedicated to Frau Julie von Webenau, née Baroni-Cavalcabò, a composer and pianist, and a pupil of Mozartʼs son Franz Xaver.

Humoreske consists of a series of contrasting and connected episodes, starting with a simple B flat major melody, marked Einfach, and immediately followed by a passage marked Sehr rasch und leicht (Very quick and light), proceeding to a section that is Noch rascher (Still quicker). The second passage returns, capped by a return to part of the opening. The next part of the work, Hastig (Hurried) is written with an additional stave, an inner voice, that is not to be played, perhaps a reference to Clara, to whom he was now secretly engaged. A contrasting chordal passage leads to the return of the Hastig section and a brief Adagio conclusion. The work continues with a melodic Einfach und zart (Simple and tender), leading to an Intermezzo of contrapuntal character and the return of the preceding passage. The Humoreske then embarks on a melodic Innig (Heartfelt), before long interrupted by the semiquavers of a passage marked Sehr lebhaft (Very lively), increasing in speed until a final Stretto followed by a stately chordal Mit einigem Pomp (With some pomp) and an allusive and varied final section, ending a complex work, united by thematic and motivic connections within its capricious variety.

Keith Anderson

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