Robert Schumann (1810-1856, German)

I used – many decades and parsecs ago – not to be so fond of Schumann’s piano music. It seemed very formulaic and repetitive to me – the formulas were distinctly Schumann’s, I recognized that, but it still sounded all the same, Eusebius vying with Florestan.

Well – I’ve changed. Every composer is a combination of unity and diversity, endless variations on a certain style – even Stravinsky, who was famously mercurial in the successive variety of styles which he embraced. I’ve come to recognize, and totally enjoy, the beauty of Schumann’s unique combination of dreamy poetry and cavalcading braggadocio – Eusebius and Florestan, indeed. And if he wants to vary the theme – or rather, the spirit – one thousand times, I’m in for one thousand variations.

I’ve listened to more Schumann than I’ve reviewed, although I haven’t nearly listened to as much Schumann as I’d like. Grant me two hundred years of listening life, please.

First review to be published on this website is not your typical, top-drawer Schumann: his late cantata Der Rose Pilgerfahrt (The Pilgrimage of the Rose), in Rafaël Frühbeck de Burgos’ classic 1974 recording on EMI, with a stellar vocal cast and the Düsseldorf choir and orchestra, the distant heirs of those who premiered the work. Also the version with piano accompaniment, with pianist Roberto Szidon on ebs – the premiere recording, made in 1990, of the piano version, an entirely legitimate choice here, since Schumann conceived it that way and was very happy with it, and orchestrated it only at the behest of friends. Even more “authentic”, on account of using a period forte piano (but not only, see the review), the more recent version conducted by Marcus Creed on Harmonia Mundi (1999).