Official release: 16 April 2021
“Our last word will be the most beautiful. A small German word: Liebe. Love”
Robert Schumann had met Clara, the daughter of his piano teacher Friedrich Wieck, when she was 11 years old; by the time she was 15, he was crazily in love with her. It was one of those typically Romantic loves, lived at a distance and accomplished in the spasmodic quest for a stolen gaze, in unavoidably Platonic passions, between the lines of an infinite exchange of letters. Under this viewpoint, Schumann assumed, and fully embodied, the typical traits of the Romantic artist: capable of passionate outbursts, entirely inebriated by that Romantic Sehnsucht, the emotional heartache whereby life and art are united and confused. He knew the emotional storms built on the simple thought of his absent beloved; storms capable of taking one’s breath away and to disrupt one’s entire existence, plunging those living them into a strange torpor and an infinite malaise, to which art alone could give respite. These were the feelings of a bourgeois society, forged upon the values of a deeply Lutheran and typically German ethics, miles away from that material and concrete hedonism in which a sick aristocracy (not long before) had consumed its love relationships in the palaces’ alcoves. Just a few years had passed, but they were sufficient for a change of century, and for immersing us, as previously said, in the Romantic climate of pure feeling, in quest of a more intimate and spiritual love. “I have been here for an hour. For the whole evening, I have tried to write to you, but I cannot find the words. Sit by me, surround me by your arms; let us look each other in the eyes, and be tranquil, happy. In this world there are two human beings loving each other. From afar they sing a chorale to each other. Do you know these two beings? How happy we are, Clara! Let us knee down. Come, my Clara, I feel you here, close by me. Our last world will be the most beautiful. A small German word: Liebe [love]”. [Letter to Clara, December 1837].
Robert and Clara had fallen in love with each other a couple of years before this letter, and had promised eternal love to each other. But they had not considered her father, who was terribly jealous of his daughter, and who would have destined her to a shining career as a pianist. He made a fierce opposition, forcing the girl to undergo long concert tours in the hope to keep her distant from Robert. He even forbade her from writing to him, thus leaving them no choice but that of a frequent clandestine correspondence. It was precisely during one of these tours that Clara stayed in Vienna. The sojourn immediately proved itself to be very positive: the young pianist performed for the Emperor and her concerts were greeted with triumphal success. Ecstatic about the city, Clara immediately wrote to Robert, inviting him to join her there. Schumann appeared to be enticed by the idea. In Vienna, Schubert and Beethoven had lived. There, he could have found the right context for his most intimate artistic aspirations; but, even more importantly, he could have joined his beloved, more than one year after their last encounter. Acting without hesitation, by the end of September 1838, Schumann decided to leave Leipzig for Vienna. His stay in the Austrian capital, however, soon appeared very different from how he had imagined it. The city was terribly hostile to him. Intrigues and factions hindered his access to the Conservatory; censorship thwarted the possibility of moving the redaction of his journal there; his musical works met with lukewarm appreciation. In the meanwhile, Clara, pressed by her father, had moved to Paris. The two lovers once more were divided from each other. Robert was alone, disappointed, powerless, incapable to react; he plunged into one of those states of anguish which would mark the later years of his life. However, an unforeseen meeting brought his good humour suddenly back. Ferdinand, Schubert’s brother, invited them to visit his home, sharing with him the content of a trunk full of his brother’s unpublished works. Among the sheets, a large-scale Symphony emerged: the Great Symphony. Robert spent some time with those dusty pages, was enthused by them and decided to send them to Leipzig in order for them to be immediately performed at the Gewandhaus!
Schumann, who had known Schubert only superficially in his youthful years, was dumbstruck. Living in the same city as Schubert, going to the same places where he had been the protagonist, touching those manuscript papers: these things deeply touched him, and at the same time they enthused him beyond measure. Due to his brother’s sudden death, however, in March 1839 he was forced to come back to Leipzig. He was increasingly resolved to marry his beloved Clara. Unable to see a way out, he decided to trust his doom to a tribunal, hoping to obtain from the law the consent which Wieck was obstinately refusing.
In spite of the suffering he was experiencing, the first months of 1840 were once more positive and fecund. They were very productive months, hiding an important novelty: “You will marvel about all I wrote during your absence; these are not piano pieces, but I do not wish, for the moment, to reveal you what they are”. Robert was thirty years old; thanks to the court, he was finally able to realise his dream to marry Clara; until that time, he had written only piano works. It was time for him to turn a page, and to begin dealing with the most impervious roads of composition. This was his great secret. After finding Schubert’s works and tasting their expressive powers, writing Lieder had become a vital necessity for him. Schumann dived headfirst in this genre, so that within the space of a few months he created Liederkreis op. 24, the cycle Myrthen op. 25, as well as an impressive quantity of pieces, including the two collections, Frauenliebe und Leben (Woman’s love and life) op. 42 on lyrics by Chamisso and the 16 pieces of Dichterliebe (Poet’s Love), op. 48, on lyrics by Heine. These collections are ambitious and have an inspired sensitivity, evidently mirroring a newly found interior balance and the inexpressible happiness he had reached with his wedding. In 1840, therefore, it was not just the path of married life which was beginning, but also a period of extraordinary artistic maturity.
It is precisely to a selection from Dichterliebe that the first part of this album is dedicated (tracks 1-6). The original cycle includes 16 songs on lyrics by Heinrich Heine, certainly the most important poet of the first half of the nineteenth century. Schumann had met him personally only once, in the spring of 1828, during a journey to Munich; he had been very impressed by the encounter. Schumann certainly thought about that meeting when he used, for Dichterliebe, the verses from Lyrisches Intermezzo, a collection published by Heine as the second part of his Buch der Lieder (1827). These lyrics are deeply fascinating, filled with allegories, allusions, dreams telling us about disappointed love, tearing the poet’s soul and leading him to a state of deep frustration. Schumann had recognized there the autobiographical traits of his own personal experience; of his love for Clara continuously fluctuating between the most intimate passions and the infinite obstacles against its realization. Small caskets derive from this, overflowing with valuable pearls, whereby sophisticated harmonies intertwine with each other and sustain tunes with a deep emotional range. These are pages with an extraordinary intensity, which we now consider as among the most significant in the entire repertoire of the German Romanticism.
As said above, the Lieder period occupied Schumann throughout the year 1840, and dissolved itself in the autumn of the same year with the same speed it had shown in manifesting itself. He had put the piano aside, he had faced the cycle of the great Lieder; now Schumann was ready to accept the challenge of his forthcoming engagements, including those in the symphonic field. He would try his hand there, with his First Symphony, already at the beginning of 1841.
Ten more years elapsed before Schumann decided to come back to the form of the short piece. We are by now in 1849, and, as had happened with the Lied, within a few months Schumann would concentrate, up to exhaustion, the vein of his works for solo instrument and piano. He wrote an incredible quantity of masterpieces destined for the most varied instruments, and which we find here in an adaptation for bassoon and piano: the Fantasiestücke op. 73 (tracks 7-9), the Adagio and Allegro op. 70 (tracks 10-11), the Fünf Stücke im Volkston op. 102 (tracks 12-16) and the Romanzen op. 94 (tracks 17-19). All of these works were written within a few days, between February and December of that intense year 1849. Since their very inception, these works demonstrated their great flexibility, adapting themselves, time and again, to constantly different instrumental solutions. This is the case with the Fantasiestücke, written for clarinet and piano: immediately, in their transcription for the cello, they became one of the most beautiful pages in the repertoire for that instrument. This is the case also with the Adagio and Allegro op. 70, originally written for the horn, but later offered, with equal expressive efficaciousness, to the violin, oboe, viola or cello; or also of the Stücke im Volkston, written indifferently for the violin or the cello.
In the present edition, the bassoon’s warm and seducing tone leads us, as if by hand, to the deepest recesses of Schumann’s music. It leads us to forget the original version, giving new polish to those tunes, offering new emotions to us, who would never have imagined to find such novelties among well-known pieces of the chamber repertoire. These are not simple transcriptions of famous and immortal melodies, but rather “new works”. Through the multifaceted lens of this instrument, they find here a new life, in a very refined operation of research among the infinite nuances of Schumann’s palette. This operation, in our opinion, is perfectly successful, and will not remain an isolated attempt: it will permanently offer to the bassoon these delicate pages of the Romantic repertoire.
Album notes by Lorenzo Fico
Translation by Chiara Bertoglio
Francesco Bossone: Principal Bassoon of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia since 1985, he has played in this role with Maestro Claudio Abbado in the Orchestra Mozart and in the Lucerna Festival Orchestra, with the Human Rights Orchestra, with the Orchestra da Camera di Mantova and the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala. He was invited by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and he has collaborated with Maestro Lorin Maazel and the Simphonica Toscanini in Italy and in several international tours. He is engaged in an intense program of concert in Italy and all over the world, both as a soloist and in very important chamber groups. In 1990 he took part in a concert at the Carnegie Hall organized by the New York Philarmonic Orchestra in memory of Leonard Bernstein. He was invited by Maestro Daniele Gatti to perform as First Bassoon with the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra in London. From 1996 to 1998 with the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra directed by Daniele Gatti, he took part in prestigious concerts and recordsing productions at the Royal Albert Hall, at the Barbican Center and at the BBC Proms in London. The Principals of the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra agreed unanimously with their permanent Director Daniele Gatti to appoint him First Bassoon Soloist. Among his numerous Solo performances: in February 2004 the Carl Maria von Weber Concerto in F major for Bassoon and Orchestra op. 75 in the 2003/2004 Symphonic Season of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia directed by Myung Whun Chung and in September 2004 the W. A. Mozart Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra K. 191 at the K Festival produced by the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia with the Orchestra directed by Thomas Netopil. He has a large repertoire for Principal Bassoon and Orchestra which includes Concertos of J. C. Bach, Boismortier, Danzi, Francais, Jolivet, Kozeluh, Hummel, W. A: Mozart, Muthel, Rossini, Rolla, Stamitz, Vivaldi, J. C. Vogel. C. M. von Weber. While teaching, he’s involved in numerous courses and masterclasses in Italy and abroad, among which, between 1997 and 2000 Woodwind Preparatory Courses for the Youth Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. He teaches in the Annual Course of High Improvement of Bassoon at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
Monaldo Braconi: Professor at the piano faculty of “Alfredo Casella” State Conservatory in L’Aquila. Since 1998 he has been the associate pianist and maestro at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. He is a pianist in the courses at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena and at the High Performing Arts courses of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia with professors Massimo Paris, Giovanni Sollima and Alessandro Carbonare. Born in Rome, he studied pianoforte and chamber music at the Santa Cecilia Conservatorium of Rome. He graduated with full marks and Distinction. He specialized whit eminent soloist as Riccardo Brengola at the “CHIGIANA MUSICAL ACADEMY” in Siena, Oleg Malov at the “RIMSKIJ-KORSAKOV STATE CONSERVATORY” of Saint Petersburg,(Russia) Sergio Perticaroli at the “NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SANTA CECILIA” in Rome. He has also performed in France, Germany, China, Egypt, United States, Iran, Romania, Ucraina and Russia and has worked with significant foreign orchestras and he plays with important chamber ensembles like “i Percussionisti dell’Accademia Nazionale di S. Cecilia”, “PianoFortissimoPercussionEnsemble”, “i Cameristi del Conservatorio di S. Cecilia”, i “Solisti della Scala” ed il “Quartetto della Scala”. As a soloist, he has played, among other things, the "Grande Concerto per la Strage di Bologna", the concert in the "EUROPALIA" Festival in Brussels and the concert held at the Auditorium Pio in Rome where performed the concert for M. Ravel's left hand with the Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra in Kiev. This last concert was broadcast by the Italian Television (RAI UNO) and Radio (RADIOTRE). Among the various recordings are the last ones: a CD for VDM Record entitled "Simply ... George!", dedicated to George Gershwin's works for piano and orchestra, a CD for Decca with the clarinetist Alessandro Carbonare and one for "Amadeus", with his brother Simonide Braconi, first viola of the Teatro "Alla Scala" Orchestra in Milan, dedicated to the opera by Johannes Brahms for viola and piano; a dvd titled "Playing Portraits" in violin trio - clarinet - piano ensemble, with Elisa Papandrea and Alessandro Carbonare, recorded at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, on music from the twentieth century; The next cd will be dedicated to Robert Schumann, in duo with Francesco Bossone, first bassoon of the Orchestra of the National Academy of S. Cecilia.
Robert Schumann: (b Zwickau, Saxony, 8 June 1810; d Endenich, nr Bonn, 29 July 1856). German composer and music critic. While best remembered for his piano music and songs, and some of his symphonic and chamber works, Schumann made significant contributions to all the musical genres of his day and cultivated a number of new ones as well. His dual interest in music and literature led him to develop a historically informed music criticism and a compositional style deeply indebted to literary models. A leading exponent of musical Romanticism, he had a powerful impact on succeeding generations of European composers.