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,
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.