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Volodos in Vienna

“You can keep your Lang Langs, your Yuja Wangs, your Evgeny Kissins… I’d swap their collective virtuosity for one evening of Arcadi Volodos’s consummate pianism. To my mind, he has produced nothing finer on disc than this live recital, captured in Vienna last spring.” — Gramophone Magazine

Volodos in Vienna is a recital album by Arcadi Volodos recorded live at the Musikverein in Vienna. Gramophone Magazine rated this performance in its CD version as the best instrumental recording of 2010.

The first half of the recital consists of six pieces by Scriabin and Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales. The second half starts with Schumann’s Waldszenen followed by Liszt’s “Dante Sonata” which we hear Volodos perform here:

Liszt – from Années de pèlerinage, Second Year: Italy

No. 7, Après Une Lecture De Dante


Vivaldi/Bach: Concerto In D Minor, BWV 596 – Sicilienne
Tchaikovsky: Children’s Songs, Op. 54/10 – Berceuse
Scriabin: Pieces For Piano, Op. 45/1 – Feuille D’Album

Reveiw in Gramophone Magazine


Robert Schumann’s Small and Large Universes

Creativity measured in small and large form piano compositions

In 1834 Schumann founded the music journal Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik. For a decade, he edited and wrote music criticism for this publication. He championed the work of numerous young composers. (Read his first published article, a review on Chopin’s Opus 2) His writings embodied the most progressive artistic aesthetics of the time. In his journal Schumann often wrote under two pseudonyms – Eusebius (his sensitive, lyrical side) and Florestan (his fiery, stormy side). These characters were members of Schumann’s fictitious “Band of David” (along with Mozart, Chopin, Paganini and Berlioz among others) – an artistic brotherhood sworn to battle against the Philistines, the purveyors of all that was antiquated, mediocre, and shallow in contemporary music and culture.

Robert and Clara Schumann, 1850

Robert and Clara Schumann, 1850

During this period Schumann composed primarily for the piano. Among these piano compositions were the “Abegg Variations,” Op. 1 (1830); “Davidsbundlertanze” (“Dances of the Band of David”), Op. 6 (1837); “Carnaval,” Op. 9 (1835) – a portrait of a masked ball attended by his allies and his beloved Clara; “Phantasiestucke,” Op. 12 (1837) – a series of mood pieces; “Kreisleriana,” Op. 16 (1838) – a fantasy on the mad Kapellmeister Kreisler from a short story by E.T.A. Hoffman; and “Kinderszenen,” Op. 15 (1838) – a poetic series of evocations of a child’s world. The uncompromisingly lofty and elaborate pianistic demands of these works and their widely varied range of dynamic nuances and densely textured web of primary and secondary voices confounded audiences at their initial performances.

The Schumann’s sonata form (or sonata form-like) compositions, little can be explained from the standpoint of tradition. Instead of classical dramatic contrasts, thematic action develops towards a definite goal. This type of musical narration often lasts to the end of the coda , in other cases the constant evolution of a thematic thought or the continual transformation of a motif receives the leading role. In order to obscure the essential events of the works or of the movements Schumann often employs “traditional” formal gestures. Hungarian musicologist Pál Richter argues that one of the most interesting compositional modi operandi is the repetition of a longer section in different keys, reminding of the exposition-recapitulation duality. The déjà vu feeling was generally one of the starting-point in Schumann’s workshop to move away from traditional sonata procedures. Influenced by the narrative content of the works, various strategies were elaborated by him to excite the déjà vu, or to relive musical moments.

The Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (1833-1838), was not, in fact, the composer’s second such work in order of composition. The so-called Sonata No. 3, really a reworking of the Concert sans orchestre of 1836, acquired its present identity only after Schumann revised the earlier work (including the restoration of a scherzo removed before publication) in 1853. The Second Sonata, Schumann’s last large-scale work in the genre, is the most streamlined of the composer’s completed piano sonatas; within its very manageable and clearly organized confines one finds some of the composer’s most characteristic music for the keyboard.

Hear Martha Argerich play Sonata No. 2 in g minor Op. 22:

2nd mvt | 3rd mvt | 4th mvt

The Fantasie in C, Op. 17, composed in the summer of 1836, is a work of passion and deep pathos, imbued with the spirit of the late Beethoven. This is no doubt deliberate, since the proceeds from sales of the work were initially intended to be contributed towards the construction of a monument to Beethoven (who had died in 1827). The closing of the first movement of the Fantasie contains a musical quote from Beethoven’s song cycle, An die ferna Geliebte, Op. 98 (at the Adagio coda, taken from the last song of the cycle). The original titles of the movements were to be “Ruins”, “Triumphal Arch” and “The Starry Crown”. According to Liszt, who played the work for Schumann – and to whom Schumann dedicated the work – the Fantasie was apt to be played too heavily, and should have a dreamier (träumerisch) character than vigorous German pianists tended to impart. Liszt also said, “It is a noble work, worthy of Beethoven, whose career, by the way, it is supposed to represent.” According to Hutcheson: “No words can describe the Phantasie, no quotations set forth the majesty of its genius. It must suffice to say that it is Schumann’s greatest work in large form for piano solo.”

Hear Sviatoslav Richter play Fantasie in C Op. 17:

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Humoreske of 1839, far more serious-minded and substantial than its name might suggest, is built in five discrete sections. A name used as a title in the 19th century for a lively instrumental composition, often ‘good-humoured’ rather than ‘humorous’. Schumann, Dvořák and Grieg among others, used the French or the German title. Humoresques are generally short and in one movement, but Schumann’s op. 20 is one of his largest piano works and is more like a suite. Mercurial in it shifts of mood, it reflects the composer’s report to his wife Clara that, while working on the piece, he was “laughing and crying, all at once”. Originally entitled “Grosse Humoreske,” this piece has been regarded by some musicologists as an ill-judged attempt by Schumann to take his formula in Kreisleriana a step further. This assessment is harsh, however, for these pieces, unified by their extremes (“laughing and weeping”) and generally in the key of B flat major, are colorful and imaginative, full of energy and depth, and if they do not strike out new territory, they are rife with ideas and never sound tiresome.

Hear Piotr Anderszewski play Humoresque Op. 20:

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Related articles:
Robert Schumann – A Musical and Literary Giant
Nicolas Economou Plays Schumann
The Grand Sonata – Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor


Horowitz’s Master Alfred Cortot Speaks … and Plays…

A century ago, before the world was so flat, national styles of music making were a given. The French school of pianism, for example, was known for its fleet technique and lyrical delicacy – the aural equivalent, perhaps, of the nation’s haute cuisine.

NEW! Click the album cover to listen to the complete album:

(This is a new feature available for Gold members of pianostreet.com)

* Pianist Murray Perahia presents highlights of live recordings made during Cortot’s 1954-60 Master Classes in Paris, featuring the pianist playing many works he never formally recorded. *

This unique historical document came about when Perahia — a great admirer of the French pianist’s playing — learned that Cortot’s master classes between 1954 and 1960 at the École Normale de Musique in Paris had been recorded, with Cortot’s permission, by Pierre Thouzery. Despite the variable sound of the tapes and the fact that Cortot did not always play complete works during the classes, Perahia was convinced that these recordings yielded some remarkable playing and an unparalleled insight into the world of one of the greatest interpretive artists of the twentieth century. He is executive producer of Alfred Cortot – The Master Classes, and he offers extensive commentary in the accompanying booklet.

Alfred Cortot teaches and plays Schumann´s Kinderszenen Op.15, “The Poet Speaks”:

“The Poet Speaks” – piano sheet music to download and print:

Translation of what Cortot says in French in the above video:

It seems to me that this last piece, The Poet Speaks, which is the title Schumann gave to this immortal work, should be a transition into a kind of intimate reverie. It is not just about making a beautiful sound and expressive phrasing. You also need to create a sense of dreaming. The truth is, you need to dream this piece, rather than play it.
Will you allow me to take your place?

Bar 4-6:
These two phrases are not connected.
They are two different elements…
of the same musical state.

Bar 9-10:
Here, like a question…
Bar 11-12:
And here again, another, tenderly asking the way.
Bar 13-16:
And from this moment, you should convey the music not just through the notes but through some kind of inspiration drawn from its immortal spirit.

Bar 21-25:
Now the sonorities should fade away…grow fainter and dimmer…and you are left simply in the presence of a reminiscent dream.


Alfred Cortot: The Master Classes (amazon.com)

Read about Cortot Masterclasses on musicweb-international.com

Video: Alfred Cortot – Greatest Interpreter of Chopin


Robert Schumann – A Musical and Literary Giant

– a 200th anniversary tribute to one of the greatest piano composers

Several of the great Romantic composers have important anniversaries in 2010 and 2011. Nobody will have missed by now that it’s exactly two centuries since Chopin’s birth. And in 2011 we will be certain to hear a lot about that other great Romantic piano virtuoso, Franz Liszt. But Robert Schumann was also born in 1810 and has celebrated his 200th birthday this year. Although the Schumann anniversary hasn’t exactly attracted the same huge attention as Chopin’s, there has been quite a lot of celebrations going on in honour of this important 19th century personality.

Robert Schumann certainly belongs to the artistic giants of the Romantic era. Not only was he one of the greatest composers of his time, but through his journalism and his great interest in literature he influenced the thought of a whole generation of Romantic artists. His music is a perfect mix of joyful vitality and complex intellectualism. His compositions may at times seem like advanced literary crossword puzzles, but at the same time the music has the directness and naivety that we associate with a child’s outlook.

The events leading up to his marriage to Clara Wieck form one of the most famous and touching love affairs in music history. Schumann studied piano with the well-known teacher Friedrich Wieck, whose young daughter Clara was an extremely talented musician. Mr Wieck didn’t at all approve of their attachment but after years of despair, the couple was finally able to marry in 1840.

During his time of separation from Clara, Schumann composed a great number of piano pieces, mostly short character works: Fantasiestücke, Album for the Young, Kinderszenen, Three Romances, etc. He had to give up his own pianistic career because of a paralysis of his right hand, caused either by the syphilis that would later claim his sanity, or by his use of a finger-strengthening device. But Clara supplied all the inspiration he needed to keep composing for the instrument.

As a writer and one of the founder of the journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik he formulated a lot of the thoughts and trends of the Romantic era. Examples of his influence are his articles on Chopin and Brahms, which contributed greatly to the recognition of the genius of these composers.

“Hats off, gentlemen, a genius”

The very first article Schumann wrote was an enthusiastic and very unconventional review of Chopin’s Opus 2, a set of variations for piano and orchestra on Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano”.
In order to make this highly entertaining text more accessible, we have prepared a new translation of it into English, which we now present to you together with the original article, published in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 7 Dec 1831. Read the article and translation here:
An Opus 2 – original article and translation
Listen to the Variations here:
Chopin – Four Concert Pieces

Schumann Träumerei – Sheet music to download and print:

Links to other interesting resources and articles about Robert Schumann:

Gramophone: Schumann’s best-loved piano repertoire matched to recordings

Wikipedia: Robert Schumann

Classical Net: Schumann biography and recommended recordings

Essortment.com: Robert and Clara Schumann – a biography

Project Gutenberg: free e-book, Advice To Young Musicians by Robert Schumann

Please post your greetings to Schumann or let us all know how you have celebrated the Schumann anniversary in a comment below!


BORGATO – Italian Innovative Excellence Inspired by the Past

Luigi Borgato, born in 1963, designs and builds concert-grand pianos together with his wife Paola Bianchi, which are of innovative conception and highly regarded by well-known international pianists.
Each BORGATO piano is built completely by hand, unique reality of true handicraft creations in its field. BORGATO’s first grand piano, model BORGATO L 282, was presented in Pesaro in April 1991 for the European Congress “Europiano” for piano makers, technicians and tuners. Inspired by an idea of Beethoven*, Borgato builds his concert-grand pianos BORGATO L 282 with four strings struck per note in the 44 keys of the upper register of the keyboard (design patent BORGATO).

Inspired instead by compositions written for piano with pedalboard **, BORGATO designed, patented and built a new instrument, the “DOPPIO BORGATO”, the first double concert-grand piano with pedalboard. This instrument was presented in Perugia in September 2000 at the “Meeting of the Piano – 300 years since conception”, thus opening a new page to the musical world, this latest creation offering new possibilities to composers and performers.

The “DOPPIO BORGATO” L 282 – P 402 is made up of two superimposed concert-grand pianos, the upper instrument being the concert-grand BORGATO model L 282. The lower instrument is a grand piano BORGATO model P 402, operated by a pedalboard of 37 notes with an extension of 3 octaves (A 27,5 Hz – A 220 Hz), similar to those of the pedals of an organ. A “resonance” pedal is applied to the lower piano which activates the damper mechanism simultaneously on both instruments.

* Ludwig van Beethoven commissioned master craftsman Conrad Graf to make a fortepiano with four strings struck per note. It is possible to view this instrument in his home in his native city Bonn.
** In 1785 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart owned a fortepiano with an independent pedalboard, built expressly for him by Anton Walter. In the autographed manuscript of the Concerto in D minor K466, composed the same year, it is possible to note the extended bass range due to the use of this instrument. Mozart’s father makes mention in some letters of Wolfgang’s use of this piano with pedalboard in public.

In the 19th and 20th centuries other composers also wrote for the piano with pedalboard, among these: 
Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Charles Valentin Alkan, Camille Saint-Saëns, Charles Gounod.

Silvio Celeghin plays Schumann opus 58 no. 3 on a Doppio Borgato:

Pianist Ingolf Wunder performs Chopin’s Scherzo no. 1 on a Borgato L 282:

Webpage: www.borgato.it


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