Vol. 1 издание на 7 CD Piano works. Schumann; Vladimir Ashkenazy piano. London
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Schumann's music has seldom been rewarded with real popularity and has often been misunderstood. No-one would be less surprised by this state of affairs than the composer himself. Popularity was never his prime goal. Speaking of the Symphonic Studies, he wrote in 1838 to Clara Wieck (his wife to be, and a superlative pianist): 'You are wise not to perform them; they arc not suitable for the public. And I should be foolish to complain if audiences failed to grasp something which was never intended for their approval but exists rather for its own sake' - the words of an uncompromising artist who was as pure as they come.
For all his much remarked gentleness and diffidence, Schumann was a genuine revolutionary. His music, designed to challenge the fashion for shallow note-spinning which glistered in the wake of Beethoven, was uniquely personal; and it earned him in his lifetime the standard twin punishments for true originality: rebuke and neglect. The rapid shifts of mood and the sometimes extreme brevity of the pieces in Schumann's 'piano cycles' were genuinely bewildering to most of his contemporaries.
Indeed they were often bewildering to him; but his mission was to write in music (as he also wrote in words) a kind of aphoristic diary of the soul - a spiritual record whose fidelity to truth demanded that form be determined from within and not according to preconceived notions of musical etiquette. In principle, his credo is simply stated: The intellect may err, but feelings, never! In practice, however, art, like life, was more complex. The grace and apparent spontaneity of his opus 2 are the fruits of three years' labour, the final distillation of countless sketches and rearrangements. This is no modern 'strcam-of-consciousness' but rather an attempt - the first of many -to grasp the structure of the unconscious. The title Papillons (Butterflies) should not be understood pictorially. Schumann once likened himself to a chrysalis, and he referred to many of his works (and their germinal ideas) as 'papillons'.
Like opus 2, the opus 13 Studies, written largely in the form of variations, had a long and adventurous gestation. Originally conceived as 'pathetic' transformations of a funeral march, they emerged in 1837 (save for one or two details) as the far (torn pathetic work we know today. The five 'extra' variations included here were removed from the original group by the composer on the grounds that their similarity weakened the overall structure; they were later rescued by Brahms for the posthumously published Complete Edition of 1873.
Schumann's music, as the Symphonic Studies amply demonstrate, is often remarkable for its polyphony, but so far from being self-consciously academic, the counterpoint was sometimes a surprise to its creator. In the above-mentioned letter to Clara, Schumann made a striking confession: '1 frequently discover in my compositions to date many things which I cannot explain. It's most extraordinary how I write nearly everything in canon and then only detect the imitation later, and often find inversions, rhythms in contrary motion and so on.' Listeners who fail to spot similar devices in the works recorded here may comfort themselves by reflecting that they are in excellent company.
The evergreen Arabesque is one of Schumann's most successful concessions to pre-ordained form - it is a rondo - and might pass for a very superior piece of salon' music but for the dream-like coda which lifts it into the realm of highest art.
- Jeremy Sicpmann