Release 21 May 2021
The composition and the (later) widespread dissemination of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier offered to many musicians a conceptual model and a source of inspiration. Different from many of his contemporaries, Bach had wished to demonstrate that each and every major and minor key possessed a dignity of its own, and could be successfully employed for composing beautiful music. This did not imply, at first, a complete equality of the keys: in all likelihood, Bach was not promoting the so-called “equal temperament” (i.e. the subdivision of the octave into twelve perfectly identical semitones) but rather a “good” temperament, one which allowed the musician to compose in all keys while maintaining different tonal shades for each.
Bach’s work was made of two volumes, each containing twenty-four Preludes and Fugues (one for each major and minor key). His Preludes, thus, were conceived as constituting an inseparable unity with the Fugue they were paired with. Indeed, the very word “Prelude” implies something preceding something else. Notwithstanding this, there are a few recognizable features which can be identified in most, if not all, of Bach’s Preludes: the relative brevity, the unified musical (and technical) concept, the thorough development of a limited number of musical ideas.
Other composers followed his model, although, in the nineteenth century, the practice emerged of composing Preludes without Fugues. Of course, in the contemporaneous musical scene, Preludes were commonly used by composers/virtuosos as a partly improvised introduction to larger works, or for connecting various items of their recitals.
Frédéric Chopin composed his own 24 Preludes op. 28 probably with such a destination in mind, although he consciously and deliberately adopted Bach’s model to the point of imitating the number of bars of Bach’s work.
Most of the later collections of twenty-four Preludes (normally with no fugues, with the notable exception of Shostakovich’s collection) were written for the piano, including those by Claude Debussy.
The collection presented in this Da Vinci Classics album, structured as a cycle of twenty-four sung Preludes with piano accompaniment, represents therefore a very original concept, and one bearing witness to its composer’s imaginativeness and creativity.
Elisabeth von Schultz was a Russian-born musician, who came from a wealthy family of St Petersburg. A child prodigy at the piano, she had had the opportunity of studying under the guidance of Adolph Henselt, a German pianist who was one of the best-known virtuosos of his time. Under his guidance, she developed her musical skills to the point of being invited to concertize throughout Europe already in her teens.
Her talent did not go unnoticed by the cultural and aristocratical elites of the time, and she was called to perform at court, under the patronage of Czar Alexander II. Her musical education was not limited, however, to piano playing, and she soon displayed a remarkable talent for composition. She conceived large-scale works, such as an opera (it was very unusual for women to compose operas). She undoubtedly demonstrated courage and determination in embarking in such a compositional venture. However, her courage and her daring were perhaps too ahead of her times. In fact, not only did she try her hand in a genre which was normally dominated by male composers, but her choice of a subject proved to be as bold as it was unfortunate. Her chosen topic, in fact, was … the abolition of serfdom!
As was to be expected, the topic encountered the czarist censorship, and the young musician was forced to leave her homeland (though she was also allocated a pension by the Russian State). She was already a citizen of Europe, to be sure, and her connections included many of the leading musicians and intellectuals of the era. She was well known and appreciated in a number of European capitals, including Paris, Berlin and Vienna, and she befriended such artists as Berlioz, Gounod, Rossini, Brahms, Liszt, as well as Clara Schumann, another female composer whose works are represented in this Da Vinci Classics album.
It was however in Italy that she decided to spend one of the most substantial periods of her life, extending over nearly thirty years. At this time, she had already adopted the nom de plume which was to achieve lasting fame, i.e. that of Ella Adaïewsky, under which she signed not only her musical compositions, but also her musicological writings. She had chosen this Russian-sounding surname without declining it following the Russian fashion for female surnames: her purpose was to conceal her gender and identity, and the occasion prompting this choice had been her publication, as a young composer, of Orthodox liturgical music. In this male-dominated field, works by a woman would hardly have been accepted; however, she decided to maintain this concealment also when it would not have been necessary.
As a musicologist, she was a true pioneer, not only as a female scholar, but in absolute terms. She published extensively in some of the most important musicological journals of the era. Her field of specialization was an early form of ethnomusicology (i.e. the scholarly study of the orally transmitted musical repertoire), in which she established standards of reliability and scholarly accountability which were to pave the way for all subsequent studies. Her work as an ethnomusicologist has been recently researched by the Association Sergio Gaggia, which highlighted the significance of her manuscript work, Un voyage à Résia, which demonstrates her peerless role at the dawn of this scholarly discipline. She frequently left Venice for the lesser-known valleys of the Alps in Eastern Italy, where she collected, notated and discussed the large heritage of “popular” songs, with its specific traits and its anthropologically interesting features.
Her knowledge of the deepest and most ancient shades of the musical settings of verbal texts proved fundamental for her own compositional activity. The cycle of 24 Lieder recorded here offers a striking proof of her skill, fantasy and attention to the minutest details of intonation and declamation. They were composed during the first decade of the twentieth century (between 1903 and 1907), and, significantly, they employ as their lyrics a series of poems written by the composer’s nephew, Benno Geiger (1882-1965). Geiger, who was still young at the time, would later become one of the leading figures of the Italian intellectual scene. He befriended poets, literates and artists such as Pascoli (one of the main Italian poets, who admired Geiger’s artistry), Marinetti (the founder of Italian Futurism), the philosopher Croce, and musicians such as Malipiero and Gui. He is also credited with the re-discovery of painters such as Arcimboldo and Magnasco, and his literary merits include a German translation of Dante’s Commedia, to which he worked during his internment in a German concentration camp at the time of the Second World War. Indeed, the Venice household of this family of artists was an impressive centre of irradiation of culture and creativity. From the verbal viewpoint, the cycle represents a bridge between Romanticism and modernity; some of the topics and of the linguistic choices are already projected into the cultural atmosphere of the twentieth century, with a certain dryness and sometimes a biting irony. Others, however, unashamedly express the young poet’s longing for his family, from which he was separated, and for his mother’s love. The composer skillfully gathered these various threads, and was able to express them thoroughly in her musical settings. Many of these Lieder are very concise, thus revealing the composer’s ability to concentrate a high density of musical meaning within the space of very few bars (as had happened with some of Chopin’s Preludes, indeed). In others, the piano writing evokes Classicist gestures, intended not as a sterile veneration of the past, but rather as a loving homage capable of transforming itself into a foretelling of the future. The tonal structure of the cycle, which encompasses (as in Bach’s model) the full scale of the major and minor keys, is structured in a fashion which favours its performance as an organic whole. In fact, while Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier follows the order of the semitones, thus bringing together keys which are distant from each other in harmonic terms, Ella Adaïewsky chose to follow the “circle of fifths”, so that every piece is strictly connected to those preceding and following it.
The musical language of Ella Adaïewsky is therefore moderately progressive. It remains anchored within the tonal tradition, while consciously adopting daring harmonic and timbral solutions. Under this viewpoint, it is paralleled rather effectively by the Lieder composed by Alma Mahler and recorded here. Alma Mahler was 33 years younger than Adaïewsky, and had been a child prodigy in turn. Among her teenage projects had been the composition of an opera of her own, thus revealing an ambition common to several young female composers. Alma was an extremely fascinating woman, whose first husband was the great composer Gustav Mahler. He did not appreciate his wife’s compositional gifts, and discouraged her from writing. However, he did admire her Lieder, and fostered their publication; his promotion of her works represented a kind of “gift of reconciliation” after a major marital crisis and shortly prior to his death. The style of these works efficaciously represents the cultural and artistic atmosphere of those years, when the splendid beauty of the Austro-Hungarian Romantic culture was giving way to its own dissolution in the crumbling of the institutional and artistic systems at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Contrary to Mahler, Clara Wieck’s husband, Robert Schumann, actively encouraged his wife to compose Lieder. Indeed, she wrote most of her compositions in this field as presents for her husband’s birthdays or for Christmas. Some of her best works were later collected and published as her Sechs Liedern op. 13, issued in 1844. Her choices of poems reveal her interest in contemporaneous literature, but also – in all likelihood – the shared experiences of the young couple. They therefore represent not only the evident demonstration of Clara’s unique gifts and of her ability in the musical setting of poetry, but also a glimpse on the composer in her most cherished relationships and in her experience of life.
Together, the Lieder by the three female composers recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album represent a unique opportunity to follow the development of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Lied composition, as intended and conceived by three gifted composers who saw this genre with feminine eyes.
Album Notes by Chiara Bertoglio
Andrea Rucli: He finished his classical studies and then he devoted his self to music; he got the music diploma on 1982 at the Academy of Music “L. Cherubini” in Firenze, with full marks and laud, under the guide of Alessandro Specchi. For many years, he perfected his self with Konstantin Bogino, becoming his assistant for a long time during courses in Italy and abroad. They have formed a good pianistic duo and they recorded a compact-disc with Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances.
He won first and second prizes in many music competitions – contests of Alberga, Como, Aversa and so on -, he has been playing piano for more than twentyfive years as solist and in a lot of chamber music ensembles. He is now exploring this repertory and he collaborates with many good music players such as Patrik Gallois, Radu Chisu, Gordon Hunt, Michel Lethiec, the Artis String Quartet, the Meta 4 String Quartet, the Tartini Quartet, the Slow Wind Quintet and the Montecarlo wind Quintet and with main musicians of Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala, Solisti Veneti and London Symphony Orchestra. A friendly and artistic relationship is still going on with the famous viola player and composer Vladimir Mendelssohn. He took part in many chamber music festivals, like Kuhmo in Finland (for 16 years), Portogruaro (for eight years), Settimana Musicale at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Cantiere di Montepulciano, Osnabruek Chamber Music Festival, Sounding Jerusalem and Chamber Music Festival of St.Peterburg.
As solist, Andrea Rucli played with the Orchestra of Slavonic RadioTelevision, the Orchestra of Dubrovnik Festival, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Udine and recently with the Wiener Musik - Verein orchestra, in the Brahms hall, directed by A. Nanut, I. Drasinic, L. Shambadal, F. Mertz, W. Themel, Lorenzo Viotti and E. Rojatti.
He recorded for Italian, Finnish, Austrian and Slavonic radio and television networks – also for the main Italian network RAI - . He recorded E. Chausson’s chamber music pieces with Cameristi di Verona, the first absolute of a Daniele Zanettovich’s Quartet, Schumann’s sonatas for violin, piano and Heifetz transcriptions and violin pieces of Antonio Freschi with Lucio Degani (Dynamic and Bongiovanni). He recovered in Italy and recorded the chamber music of Ella Schultz Adaiewsky, a russian fascinating artist of the outgoing 19th and beginning 20th century. He performed in 2010 and 2013 as part of the acclaimed “Quirinale Series” at the Italian President's Palace in Roma, live broadcasted in Euro Radio.
Sophie Klussmann: With a voice that is warm, wide-ranging and dark-hued, and commanding a repertoire that extends from the baroque to the present day, German-born soprano Sophie Klussmann is in demand as a concert singer, as a recitalist and on the opera stage. In recent seasons her engagements have included a world tour of Mozart concert arias with Martin Haselböck and the Wiener Akademie, and performances and recordings of 20th century music with the Berlin’s Scharoun Ensemble, the pianist Oliver Triendl and a variety of other partners. Over her career to date she has collaborated with such conductors as Vladimir Jurowski, Marek Janowski, Ingo Metzmacher, Helmuth Rilling, Marcus Bosch, Michael Gielen, Michael Sanderling, Karl Heinz Steffens and, in the field of historically informed performance, Marcus Creed, Václav Luks and Attilio Cremonesi. Trained in Detmold and Cologne, Sophie Klussmann numbers Thomas Quasthoff, Dunja Vejzovic, Margreet Honig and Klesie Kelly-Moog among her mentors. From 2009 to 2011 she was a member of the Halle Opera, where her roles included Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro), Nannetta (Falstaff), Dorinda (Orlando), Wellgunde (Das Rheingold), Woodbird (Siegfried), Shepherd Boy (Tannhäuser) and the soprano part in Carmina Burana. In Halle and at the Komische Oper Berlin she gave the world premieres of two operas by the composer Christian Jost. At the 2013 Baden-Baden Easter Festival, she covered Anna Netrebko in the role of Donna Anna, while 2016 brought her debut as Micaëla (Carmen) in Wuhan, China. Sophie Klussmann’s stage skills were honed by her long-term collaboration with American actor John Malkovich, who selected her for the theatre pieces The Giacomo Variations and The Infernal Comedy, which were staged in the US and around the world. In 2019 she debuted as Rosalinde (Fledermaus) at the opening production of the Festival Bad Hall Austria.
As a keen interpreter of song and chamber repertoire, Sophie Klussmann appears in recitals in Germany, at the Kuhmo Festival in Finland and the Musikus Fest Hong Kong. In 2015 her first solo CD, devoted to songs by Karl Weigl, was released on the Capriccio label. She also recorded pieces by Händel with the Akademie für alte Musik and Marcus Creed, released on the Harmonia Mundi label.
She has appeared with the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Deutsches Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Potsdamer Kammerakademie, SWR Sinfonieorchester, Staatsphilharmonie Nürnberg, Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Budapest Festival Orchestra and, in music by Ligeti and Stockhausen, with the Cologne-based Ensemble Musikfabrik. Her career has taken her to venues such as the Philharmonie and Konzerthaus in Berlin, Musikverein in Vienna, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Tonhalle in Zurich, Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, Liszt Academy and Palace of Arts in Budapest, New York City Center, Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor, Teatro del Bicentenario in León, Mexico, and the Concert Hall of the National Grand Theatre Beijing and HongKong Concert Hall.
Clara Schumann (b Leipzig, 13 Sept 1819; d Frankfurt, 20 May 1896). German pianist, composer and teacher. One of the foremost European pianists of the 19th century and the wife and champion of the music of Robert Schumann, she was also a respected composer and influential teacher.