Wednesday, 20 February 2013

111 Reasons to love Schumann

I love the music of Schumann. I love early Schumann, middle-period Schumann and, yes,  late Schumann. 

The 3 Phantasiestücke, Op.111 are late Schumann. They are truly wonderful pieces, giving the lie (I believe) to the clapped-out old assertion that the composer's mental state sucked the freshness out of his late music. 

The first Fantasy Piece in C minor ('Sehr rasch, mit leidenschaftlichem Vortrag') is one of the most uncanny of all musical storm pieces, full of flashes of lightning and greats swirls of soaking rain. Surely it can be heard no other way? A glorious melody surges through all this dramatic agitation. 

The second Fantasy Piece ('Ziemlich langsam') is the calm after the storm (well, in its outer sections at least). It's in an introspective-sounding A flat major and has a gentle intimacy and a slight air of wistfulness which, added to the hesitancy of its phrases, give it a particularly tender feel. It has a melody of great beauty. The number's middle section is more turbulent - passionate and capricious - but the beauty and restfulness of the opening returns and soothe away this. You would have to have a heart of stone not to hear the warmth of this music. 

The third Fantasy Piece ('Kräftig und sehr markiert') returns us to C minor, this time for one of the composer's extrovert numbers. The secondary section, though capricious, is dreamier. Its material provides the basis for the coda, after we've again been treated to the catchy main tune. 

I find it inexplicable that anyone could find these wonderful pieces cold and laboured. Some people, however, do feel like that about them. You must make your own minds up, though I'd much prefer it if you ended up agreeing with me!

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