This third volume of Andreas Staier's series devoted to the piano music of Robert Schumann begins with his first published composition, the "Abegg" Variations op.1, and ends with his very last work, posthumously published "Geistervariationen". The road he travelled between the two words was a long one, yet this programme also brings out the consistency of the poetic urge that gives Schumann's music its matchless powers of evocation.
Beethoven's works for cello and piano were written between 1796 and 1815. He effectively created the sonata for cello, with an independent piano part, in his Op.5, intended for Jean-Louis Duport and dedicated to Frederick William II of Prussia. Like the delightful variations on themes by Handel and Mozart, they represent his first-period style, as Op.69 typifies the second. The two sublime Sonatas Op.102, for their part, already herald the unprecedented stylistic freedom of the composer's final decade.
This programme illustrates four essential qualities of the music of Felix Mendelssohn. Music stripped of all superfluity, including the literary aspect (Songs without Words); a gift for creating magical atmospheres (Rondo capriccioso); unconditional admiration for classical order; and, finally, a genuine veneration for Bach (Prelude and Fugue op.35). The whole radiant universe of Mendelssohn is encapsulated here.
Hindemith composed more than 30 sonatas for the most diverse instruments â€“ all of which he was capable of playing himself! This fascinating selection of works written between 1935 (when he became persona non grata in Nazi Germany) and 1948 (the brilliant Cello Sonata for Piatigorsky) is played by some of today's finest soloists, with the guiding spirit of Alexander Melnikov at the piano. How often does one hear a sonata for Althorn? Especially one published along with a poem by the composer?
It is a plea for the direct experience of a music that had become fed up with the constraints of traditional forms. Debussyâ€™s music especially reveals characteristics that justifiably move it into the proximity of Impressionist painting, as it produces moving paintings, landscapes of sound, soundscapes in the narrowest sense of the word that can draw the listener into the middle of the picture. Maurice Ravelâ€™s String Quartet, completed in 1903, had to be and was compared with Debussyâ€™s quartet. At the same time, it can be seen here how Ravelâ€™s musical diction â€“ based on Debussyâ€™s â€“ prepared the way for French Modernism. Like only few of his colleagues, the Briton Thomas AdĂ¨s, born in 1971, is capable of fusing traditional elements from music history, including obvious references to existing compositions, with modern sound production into an individual style appealing directly to the listener.
The two sonatas for clarinet and piano, composed in 1894, were Brahms's last chamber works. Knowing that he could count on the virtuosity of their dedicatee, the prodigious clarinettist Richard MĂĽhlfeld (1856-1907), Brahms enthusiastically exploited all the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Under the fingers of Lorenzo Coppola, the clarinet prays, sobs, dreams or laughs, bringing astonishing conviction to all these varied emotions.
The work of a young musician of 25, the celebrated Piano Concerto by Grieg combines the great Romantic tradition and Norwegian folk music. The 'Lyric Pieces' are among the works that made Grieg world-famous. As in the case of the Piano Concerto, commentators have held that a certain combination of intervals (the 'Grieg motif') is chiefly responsible for its specific Norwegian quality. For Grieg himself the question of Norwegian culture was a tremendously important one, and he used his international reputation to fight tirelessly for the recognition of Norway as a state. He owed that reputation in considerable part to the 'Lyric Pieces', which he wrote over the space of four decades. They are indebted to the Romantic character piece in free form, which became widespread after 1830 and found outstanding representatives in Schumann and Mendelssohn. Grieg certainly also composed them with a view to their use in teaching the piano, with the result that they swiftly won the hearts of devotees of domestic music-making all over Europe. The present recording offers a representative selection: a set of eight pieces with which the 24year-old composer scored a resounding success immediately upon publication. He had managed to establish a personal voice virtually at a stroke. Further books followed over the decades, and, surprisingly enough, he enjoyed unfailing success with them, even though he hardly changed his 'artistic strategy'.
In September 2014, Christian Mason will take up the post of Composer in Residence at the presitigious Eton College. Congratulations!
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