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Michael Korstick Robert Schumann: Kreisleriana - Arabeske - Carnaval OC 757 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 757
Barcode4260034867574
labelOehmsClassics
Release date03/05/2010
salesrank2730
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Schumann, Robert

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      Description hide

      Robert Schumann:
      Kreisleriana op. 16 · Arabeske op. 18 · Carnaval op. 9
      Michael Korstick, piano


      As Michael Korstick’s standard-setting Beethoven cycle slowly but surely approaches completion (Vol. 7 appeared in November 2009; Vol. 8 is being prepared for release this fall), this recording demonstrates another main emphasis of the artist’s musical spectrum. One could name this Schumann program “Florestan and Eusebius”, and this would not only refer to the duality of the two fictitious characters in “Carnaval”, but also to the opposite poles in which “Kreisleriana” moves.

      Squaring the circle
      Michael Korstick and Marco Frei discuss the concept of the Schumann CD

      Mr. Korstick, in his book Von Beethoven bis Mahler, Martin Geck writes that Schumann is a romantic “tone-poet” who, formally speaking, did not shake up any musical genres, but who did consider music to be the language of emotions. Do you agree?
      I think his conclusions are correct. Schumann’s music certainly does have to do with personal expression and the condition of the soul. He always looked for his “content”, so to speak, first. Afterwards, he began searching for an independent and applicable form to transport this musical content. And if he couldn’t find it, he would invent it himself. With Schumann, form and content are completely interwoven.

      Geck also says that Carnaval likewise reflects Schumann’s role in society.
      This hypothesis seems highly contrived to me; I wouldn’t really want to agree.

      The polarity of the extroverted, passionate Florestan on the one hand and the elegiac, contemplative Eusebius on the other hand is evident, however, which leads in the end to different social consequences. Is this a contradiction, or do these aspects go hand in hand?
      The latter, definitely: that is the decisive element on this CD. The important thing is that Schumann would not be Schumann if neither of these opposite characters existed in him – they are two sides of the same coin, inseparably joined. They go hand in hand, and if one side of the personality had changed, this would have had consequences for the other side. They are indivisible. And this is what makes makes it such a challenge to interpret Schumann.

      Why?
      Because you have to achieve the quadrature of the circle. You have to express completely different characters using entirely different pianistic means – as though a number of different performers were playing at the same time. If the listener thinks he or she is constantly hearing one and the same pianist playing the individual pieces of the cycle, something is wrong; and yet – the performer’s characteristic style must be perceivable in every measure. On the other hand, Schumann’s moods must always be precisely recognized. But they are expressed through the performer’s personality. There needs to be an all-encompassing synthesis.

      In regard to Schumann, the use of pedal seems to me to be of major significance. What is your approach here?
      In contrast to some other composers, Schumann added pedal markings at decisive points – to be precise: whenever he wanted something unusual to happen, for example, when different harmonies are supposed to overlap. In other places, there are no markings at all, which means that I have to make basic decisions myself first. And this looks very different from most situations; Schumann does in fact treat the pedal very differently than other composers.

      How so?
      The question is: what colors can be achieved with pedaling by blending chords and harmonies together, and how can the pedal be used to make polyphonic progressions clearer. That seems like a contradiction; one normally says that the less pedal you use, the easier it is to hear the polyphony. But with Schumann, things are the other way around.

      You made this recording of Carnaval in 1997. What is your opinion of it today?
      From the performer’s point of view, there are only two possible answers: either one says one needs to make a new recording – for artistic reasons, because one’s knowledge, requirements or viewpoint has changed. Or one “takes stock”, so to speak, that is, one ascertains whether the recording is still valid. This is what I did in the case of Carnaval, and this may have to do with my general way of working.

      Why?
      As a matter of principle, I spend so much thought on the interpretation of a piece that five years later I won’t feel everything about it is wrong. I also believe that the idea of being “current” is simply not important when one seriously involves oneself with music. We’re talking about a deeper truth, and it’s important to get as close to this as possible. And such a truth is not subject to day-to-day fluctuations.

      Can you still remember the circumstances and atmosphere during the Carnaval recording?
      I remember exactly, because the situation in the Salle de Musique in the Swiss town of LaChaux-de-Fonds was so wonderful. It was one of my two recording debuts in 1997 – one CD was with the last three Beethoven Sonatas; the other was the Romantic Album with Liszt, Chopin and Schumann. In LaChaux-de- Fonds, I had a wonderful Steinway grand and a fantastic recording crew. The Romantic Album with Schumann’s Carnaval was wonderfully received at the time and made me instantly famous. And that’s why I wanted this recording to remain accessible.

      Why did you select Schumann’s Carnaval for that CD?
      At the time, I felt that Carnaval was the embodiment of the absolutely genuine and quintessential Schumann – even more so than his other pieces.

      Do you still feel this way today?
      Yes, Carnaval spotlights the entire romantic period – even though it is a relatively early work, written in the 1830s. Beethoven’s shadow still loomed large. But even though the 1830s are commonly known as the decade of the “galante” style, Schumann’s Carnaval has nothing to do with this. Schumann brought forth something revolutionary with this work.

      Still, one could also call Kreisleriana Schumann’s key work, especially because Kreisler’s life and personality – as described by E.T.A. Hoffmann – up to and including his insanity, have amazing parallels to Schumann’s life and personality.
      One can certainly see things that way – and with complete accuracy. What I would assess differently, however, is that Carnaval needs background information on the part of the listener. Someone who is not prepared for Carnaval will not understand everything upon first hearing. In regard to Kreisleriana, however, I feel that something has succeeded here that is always the case with great art: it stands on its own without any explanation whatsoever. The listener does not need to know anything about Schumann, E.T.A. Hoffmann or Kreisler. This is such a work of genius in and of itself that the source of inspiration is completely thrown into the shade by the expressive power of the music.

      Is Kreisleriana your favorite?
      Kreisleriana is my personal favorite among Schumann’s works. In Carnaval, we are still dealing with Florestan and Eusebius. It is even so that Schumann at first – as in the Davidsbündlertänze – assigned each piece either to Florestan or to Eusebius. In Kreisleriana, however, we have even greater depth: Schumann has emerged from this dissociation to come much closer to himself.

      Which is why you have coupled both of these works for this CD.
      Exactly. While Carnaval is determined by the polarity between Florestan and Eusebius, these contradictions dissolve in Kreisleriana in the sense that they merge organically. Although a pedant who wanted to work everything out schematically could still assign individual pieces to Florestan or Eusebius.

      What are the short Arabesques op. 18 doing between the two large cycles? Are they acting as some sort of go-between, or do they introduce another mood, another aspect – a type of alternative world?
      They should, as a matter of fact, introduce another mood. The emotional tides in the two major cycles are gigantic. There are, of course, contrasts in the middle sections of the Arabesques, but these are not nearly as great. Here we don’t see these intense emotional ups and downs – torn between ecstasy and agony, one might say. Altogether, the Arabesques are a relatively well-balanced work; the calm in the eye of the storm, as it were.

      Do the Arabesques show us what Schumann was longing for his entire life?
      If we look at the piece starting from its closing page, I’m certain that’s the case. The thing here is that the coda – despite its relative brevity and the overall work’s simple formal structure – suddenly opens a window onto the universe. This is where Schumann has moments of absolute, serene peace – as nowhere else. For me, these are the most astonishing individual measures that Schumann ever wrote. Schumann longed to find peace on earth, and he found it in this coda.

      Was the Florestan-Eusebius polarity the major formative influence for this CD?
      Not on the surface, but at least that aspect can be seen more in this specific selection of pieces than in another. On the CD cover, you see me between two grand pianos and between two keyboards. One might say that was meant to make a statement. I sit between two keyboards, and with Schumann, one likewise plays on two emotional keyboards.

      Does one also sit between two stools?
      (laughs) No – that’s the whole point. You really sit between two keyboards – on one piano stool and with both feet on the ground!

      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
        Kreisleriana op. 16
        • 1.1. Äußerst bewegt. Agitatissimo02:32
        • 2.2. Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch. Con molta espressione, non troppo presto09:39
        • 3.3. Sehr aufgeregt. Molto agitato05:04
        • 4.4. Sehr langsam. Lento assai03:57
        • 5.5. Sehr lebhaft. Vivace assai02:54
        • 6.6. Sehr langsam. Lento assai04:40
        • 7.7. Sehr rasch. Molto presto02:10
        • 8.8. Schnell und spielend. Vivace e scherzando03:19
      • Arabeske op. 18
        • 9.Leicht und zart06:26
      • Carnaval op. 9
        • 10.Préambule02:17
        • 11.Pierrot01:55
        • 12.Arlequin01:09
        • 13.Valse noble02:29
        • 14.Eusebius02:02
        • 15.Florestan00:57
        • 16.Coquette01:29
        • 17.Replique01:06
        • 18.Sphinxes (tacet).00:05
        • 19.Papillons00:41
        • 20.A.S.C.H. – S.C.H.A.00:47
        • 21.Chiarina01:27
        • 22.Chopin01:32
        • 23.Estrella00:26
        • 24.Reconnaissance01:44
        • 25.Pantalon et Colombine00:54
        • 26.Valse allemande – Paganini – Tempo I ma più vivo02:18
        • 27.Aveu01:21
        • 28.Promenade02:21
        • 29.Pause – Marche des “Davidsbündler” contre les Philistins03:49
      • Total:01:11:30