Lis­ten Up,

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week -

re­lated is­sues, since Tip­petts di­vides the “con­ver­sa­tion” into chap­ters fo­cus­ing on man­age­able topics: the con­cept of Ro­man­ti­cism, the be­gin­ning of Schu­mann’s ca­reer, the Florestan/Euse­bius busi­ness, the pi­ano mu­sic, the songs, the sym­phonies, and so on.

Though it is not in­tended to serve as a bi­og­ra­phy, by the end, a reader will have learned a great deal about Schu­mann. This vol­ume gives voice to the per­sonal points of view that each par­tic­i­pant brings to the ta­ble. Of­ten Tibbetts’ in­ter­locu­tors don’t agree with one an­other, and some­times they get down­right snarky, as aca­demic types can do with mag­nif­i­cent dis­dain. Con­sider, for ex­am­ple, psy­chi­a­trist Peter F. Ost­wald com­ment­ing on mu­si­col­o­gist Eric Sams (both now de­ceased): “I never met Eric Sams. He’s not a physi­cian. But he seems to en­joy mak­ing the di­ag­no­sis of a syphilitic con­di­tion in ev­ery one that he takes a look at.” (He’s just warm­ing up.) Tibbetts does tol­er­ate oc­ca­sional longueurs from his con­trib­u­tors, but most of the book is tightly edited into well-fo­cused pre­sen­ta­tions of a page or two (some­times just a para­graph). Schu­mann: A Cho­rus of Voices will prove ad­dic­tive to mu­sic lovers given to brows­ing.

The book comes with a CD tucked in, and it’s nice to hear on it some of the voices rep­re­sented in the tran­script. But you’ll want more in the way of lis­ten­ing, and for that you might want to ac­quire Schu­mann: The Master­works, a 35-CD set from Deutsche Gram­mophon that sells for about $90 (that’s two and a half bucks per disc). It’s not a com­plete Schu­mann edi­tion by a long shot, but “the es­sen­tial Schu­mann” is pretty much here (though not his or­a­to­rio Der Rose Pil­ger­fahrt or his opera Gen­oveva, which I do wish were con­sid­ered es­sen­tial).

The la­bel has an as­ton­ish­ing recorded ar­chive to draw on (its own, plus those of Philips and Decca, with which the com­pany is now af­fil­i­ated), and the per­for­mances range, for the most part, from fine to su­perb. Nine discs are given over to lieder, in­clud­ing many clas­sic, elo­quent read­ings by Fis­cher-Dieskau and Eschen­bach ( Dichter­liebe among them), and so­prano Edith Mathis, of­ten con­sid­ered a light­weight, makes beau­ti­ful, af­fect­ing con­tri­bu­tions in sev­eral song sets. Mau­r­izio Pollini reigns over four of the nine CDs of pi­ano mu­sic, in­clud­ing stun­ning ren­di­tions of Kreis­le­ri­ana and the Sym­phonic Études. Cham­ber mu­sic is en­trusted to the peer­less Beaux Arts Trio and the Ha­gen Quar­tet, while Gi­don Kre­mer and Martha Arg­erich of­fer bril­liant in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the vi­o­lin sonatas, works once dis­missed but re­cently re­ha­bil­i­tated.

Deutsche Gram­mophon owns a teem­ing back-cat­a­log of Schu­mann’s sym­phonies, but rather than go­ing with one of its fine “tra­di­tional” ver­sions (con­ducted by Kube­lik, Bern­stein, or Solti, for ex­am­ple), the com­pany chose the brac­ing pe­riod-in­stru­ment in­ter­pre­ta­tions by John Eliot Gar­diner’s Orchestre Révo­lu­tion­naire et Ro­man­tique. And so it goes, from strength to strength, and if you stum­ble across an in­ter­pre­ta­tion that doesn’t hit the spot (for me, Ben­jamin Brit­ten con­duct­ing the Scenes From Goethe’s Faust or any­thing sung by tenor Peter Schreier), you can skip ahead with­out feel­ing you’ve made a bad in­vest­ment.

Per­haps af­ter lis­ten­ing to these 34 hours of Schu­mann you will join me in feel­ing that, for all his va­ri­ety, it is a sense of im­me­di­acy, of con­fi­den­tial­ity, of di­rect, un­cen­sored com­mu­ni­ca­tion that marks the most per­sonal strand of his ge­nius. One finds of­ten in Schu­mann’s scores the mark­ing in­nig, a Ger­man ad­jec­tive that does not trans­late eas­ily into English but that touches on earnest­ness, fer­vor, ten­der­ness, and af­fec­tion. Schu­mann is the most in­nig of com­posers, and he gives you no choice but to open your heart to him. I re­call a pas­sage from Sir Thomas Beecham’s en­ter­tain­ing and of­ten out­ra­geous mem­oir, A Min­gled Chime (1943), in which he char­ac­ter­izes Schu­mann’s ex­pres­sion as tak­ing “the form of an in­ti­mate ap­proach that salutes us, not so much as an au­di­ence to be con­quered by rhetor­i­cal ar­gu­ment as a friend to be talked over by gen­tle per­sua­sion. … [Schu­mann] has ac­com­plished the mirac­u­lous feat of cloth­ing ex­quis­ite and del­i­cate fan­cies in sub­tle and se­cret phrases that each one of us feels to have been de­vised for his own spe­cial un­der­stand­ing.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.