Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Schumann among the Russians

Weh mir, so preoccupied was I with pot-bellied pigs and other Irish animals that I forgot the 200th birthday of another great Gemini (alongside Elgar, Strauss, Stravinsky and...self). I've let YouTube do the work, in each case without the proper images; I'll make the connections. Here, to begin with, are the first essential miniatures of Carnaval in Rachmaninov's inimitably idiosyncratic 1929 recording.

If you want to hear the rest, it's all there over on that site.

Next, a connection made not by myself but by my colleague Daniel Jaffe, or more specifically his singing-teacher wife Frith. He was playing the second movement of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata and Frith said, hang on, that's almost the same as Schumann's 'Wehmut' (ninth song of the Op. 39 Liederkreis). And so it is, down to the proper pitch (if you play the beginnings of both the following excerpts one after the other - or even set them spinning simultaneously, which is possible if heretical - you'll see what I mean). And of course, stuck in the Soviet Union in the 1940s, it wouldn't have been hard for Prokofiev to connect with the sentiments of Eichendorff's poem:

I can at times sing
As if I were happy;
But secretly tears well up
That help to free my heart.

Spring breezes play out there,
Nightingales sing;
Their song of yearning rings out
From their gloomy prison.

Then all hearts listen
And all are glad;
Yet no-one feels the pain,
And the deep grief in the song.

So let's have - fight over this if you want - the 20th century's greatest Lieder singer followed by its greatest pianist.

As bonus track - this doesn't work for me, but I'm glad I found it - the consummate diseuse and former Fassbinder star Barbara Sukowa, whom I count myself lucky to have seen give the Pierrot Lunaire of a lifetime with Uchida and friends, delivers the same text as melodrama over Reinbert de Leeuw's rather fussy arrangement for his Schoenberg Ensemble.

So much more Schumann yet to hear, so little time to hear it in.


Minnie said...

Thank you for a marvellous lunchtime recital. Fischer-Dieskau: yess!
Fascinating to hear the echoes in the Prokofiev; but the latter bird beats his wings against the cage, whereas Schumann's is more resigned. See what you mean about 'fussy' arrangment: Barbara Sukova would have been better served without musical accompaniment; but it's interesting to hear the melody again after the Strurm-und-Drang of Richter's Prokofiev.
And, of course, we air signs are simply wonderful ...!

David said...

How well you put it, as ever, Minnie: that's perfect, about SSP beating his wings against the cage.

For another YouTube excursion, search out Gilels playing the Bach-Siloti B minor Prelude live in concert. Spellbinding.

David Damant said...

David Damant writes

So much of lieder fails to reflect the ambiguity of the human predicament

David said...

Snore. Not this one.

Dave Hulbert said...

Hi David,

I saw your Mum (and the Drama Group) tonight and she tells me it's your birthday tomorrow. Many happy returns in the Dolomites. Hope you're well, I must start reading your blog.


Dave Hulbert - formerly of Winkworth Road, 3rd Banstead Scouts and happily living in Motspur Park with wife Gabby and son Alex

David said...

Many thanks Dave, good to hear from you (and forgive the delay in putting up your comment - been away as you gathered). I seem to remember your dad was still tinkling the ivories for the dames when I last visited the Institute; did we ever appreciate his improvisatory skills enough?

Well, you're the first Bansteadian near contemporary I've heard from in years - excepting Mary New, who only became a friend at university.

Congrats on your first born of 2010.