According to E. T. A. Hoffmann, fantasy (Phantasie, also translated as imagination in English) is an “unfamiliar region”, “enclosed within the realm which, in true life and being, the human spirit governs according to his own pleasure”. These lines are excerpted from a novella curiously called Princess Brambilla, published, with other stories, in a four-volume collection issued between 1814 and 1815. This collection is called Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier, “Fantasy pieces in the manner of Callot” (Callot was the author of bizarre engravings depicting the follies of the Roman Carnival). Similar to Jean Paul Richter’s Flegeljahre, Princess Brambilla takes place during carnival; carnival is the context where people are masked and appear as fantastic creatures. Masks, therefore, hide as much as they reveal, and vice-versa; when wearing a mask, people are free to imagine themselves as somebody or something other, and to act correspondingly. Masks, following the three meanings of the word Larve in German, are also chrysalises and ghosts: our inner butterfly sleeps within the outward appearance of our Larve, and what seems real is actually ghostly, an illusion.
Robert Schumann was particularly fascinated by what the carnival stood for, and, certainly, this fascination owed much to both Hoffmann and Jean Paul. In Jean Paul’s Flegeljahre appear the twin brothers Walt (dreamy and introverted) and Vult (rough and frank), upon whose models Schumann would shape his own alter-egos, “Eusebius” and “Florestan”. Schumann himself would describe these two characters and the League of the Companions of David to which they belonged (“Davidsbündler”) as a red thread found throughout his writings (and his music). In his own words, it “bound ‘Truth and Poetry’ in a humorous fashion”.
Truth (the brusque Florestan) and Poetry (the enchanted Eusebius) can be put in parallel with another couple of terms: humour and fantasy. In the same novella, Hoffmann wrote about the female protagonist, Giacinta: “I could say that you are Fantasy, whose wings need humour if they are to soar aloft, but without the body of humour you would be nothing but a pair of wings, and would drift away through the air, a plaything of the winds”.
Robert Schumann evidently took inspiration from Hoffmann’s Fantasiestücke for the composition of several cycles of pieces, just as he had been inspired by Jean Paul for Papillons and Carnaval. Doubtlessly, humour and fantasy were two crucial components of both his literary output and of his musical oeuvre. Interestingly, there are no less than six opus numbers in his catalogue in which the term “Fantasy” recurs: the Fantasiestücke op. 12 and op. 111 for piano, those op. 73 for clarinet and piano, those op. 88 for piano trio, as well as two Fantasies, the magnificent op. 17 for solo piano and the lesser-known op. 131 for violin and orchestra.
Of these, two cycles are recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album, one in its original version and the other in a transcription realized by the performing artists. Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke op. 73 are among his best-known works of chamber music, and deservedly so. They were written in February 1849 in Dresden. At first, their composer thought of calling them Soireestücke (Pieces for a soirée), and this title would have been very apt in turn. They had been conceived for performance at the soirées given by the Schumanns in their home, where countless artists, musicians, thinkers and philosophers met. If Hausmusizieren (the practice of making music together at home) was and still is a beloved pastime of many German households, this was doubly true for a family of musicians such as Schumann’s.
These three pieces constitute a miniature suite of their own, thanks to the net of cross-references as concerns motivic construction and formal shape, as well as – obviously – key and mode. They also build up a climax of pathos and frenzy; one might say that they begin “Eusebius” and finish “Florestan”. They also possess an undeniably narrative component. This is not meant to say that they parallel any given literary narration, but rather that their style and tone are evocative of the medieval “ballads” which enthralled the Romantics.
This set was originally conceived for clarinet and piano, and therefore inserts itself within the German tradition of clarinet music (in the vein of Weber). However, given their destination for home music-making, they were also offered for performance with violin or cello, and indeed they are very frequently heard in the latter version.
In that same 1849, Schumann was appointed Chapel Master at the Musikverein of Düsseldorf. At first, the position appealed him very much, as it granted him and his numerous family some financial stability, as well as the possibility of enacting his artistic views. Rather soon, however, things took a different turn; his directorship and conducting were criticized, and the ensuing bitterness probably contributed to undermine the composer’s psychological health. A parenthesis of joy and relax came in the summer of 1851, when Robert and Clara undertook a long river cruise from Bonn to Basel. It was for them as a new honeymoon, and they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Back home, Schumann wrote the three Fantasiestücke op. 111 for the piano, finishing them in a matter of a week. A month later, Clara would write down on her diary: “R. has composed three piano pieces of a very earnest, passionate character which I find exceptionally delightful”. Also in the case of these pieces, their intended title was not Fantasiestücke from the outset. The composer had initially thought of calling them Romanzen, although the possibility of naming them “fantasy pieces” had also come to his mind. He hesitated further, pondering the simple title “Piano pieces”, but eventually decided for the definitive version. The alternative title Romanzen may have been suggested to the composer by the dedicatee of the work, Princess Reuß-Köstritz, to whom he had already dedicated his Drei Romanzen op. 28 about ten years earlier. The two cycles also share a similar compositional concept in their alternation of quick and slow movements with different characterizations. Pianistically, they are less challenging than many other of his earlier works, and their “fantastic” style is less pronounced than that of the other cycles by the same name. However, by so labelling them, Schumann was also broadening the concept of “Fantasy piece”, and therefore paving the way for his followers.
Among them was Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890), one of Schumann’s close friends. Born in Copenhagen, Gade received his first musical training as a violinist and enjoyed the support of Felix Mendelssohn, who premiered his first Symphony at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig. So enthused was Mendelssohn with Gade’s works that he offered him the position of professor at the Conservatory of Leipzig, which he directed. In the city, Gade was a habitual visitor at the Schumanns’, and Robert keenly “enrolled” him among the Davidsbündler, the “companions of David” – in the fictional company of Florestan and Eusebius. Gade would spend his last years in his homeland, Denmark, where he directed the newly founded Royal Danish Academy of Music.
His Fantasiestücke op. 43 were written in 1864 and published the following year in Leipzig. The composer had already completed a cycle of “Fantasy pieces” for solo piano (op. 41, in 1861), and both works are clearly indebted to Schumann not only for their title but also for their style and concept. However, in comparison with Schumann’s op. 73, Gade did not employ thematic connections among the pieces. The “fantastic” aspect is particularly evident in nos. 1, 2 and 4, whilst the third could be described as “fantasy”: by the title of Ballad, it alludes to the northern Sagas of the Scandinavian tradition. Musically, Gade would deeply influence and contribute to bring to life a genuinely Scandinavian school.
This happened also thanks to his extensive activity: among his students were Carl Nielsen (who would write a Fantasiestück in turn), and the other two protagonists of this album, Carl Reinecke and August Winding.
Reinecke had also been a friend and admirer of Robert Schumann; indeed, a 1907 recording of one of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke op. 12 played by Reinecke has survived, and provides us with an invaluable testimony about performing practices of Schumann’s time. Reinecke was particularly close to the Schumanns and to Mendelssohn between 1843 and 1846, when he lived in Leipzig; in the following years, he would play in a four-hand piano duet with Clara, and be conducted by Robert in a performance of the Second Piano Concerto by Mendelssohn. His Fantasiestücke op. 22 date from his youthful years, and are particularly noteworthy for their Lied-like style of simple, expressive cantabile. They form a charming contrast, as the first piece is quiet and dreamy, whilst the second has a Mendelssohnian quality in its fairy-tale, enchanted style.
August Winding would succeed his former teacher (and brother-in-law) Gade as the director of the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 1891; his works were praised by many of the leading figures of the era, including Hans von Bülow who explicitly cited his Drei Phantasiestücke among the composer’s major works. They were written about 1871 and published the following year. Their later date with respect to the other works accounts for their more modern style, which is however clearly influenced by that of his predecessors. In the piano part, they reveal in a particularly evident fashion the mark of Reinecke’s teaching, since Winding had been his piano student until 1848.
Together, these collections of Fantasiestücke bring to life the words of another quote from Princess Brambilla: “For only now did the mystery of music awaken, uttering the supreme truth in heavenly tones”.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2021
GABRIELE DAL SANTO
Gabriele Dal Santo was born into a musician family. At the age of seven he discovered his passion for the piano and immediately embarked on a breathtaking carreer, accompanied by considerable successes at various competitions. He studied with Antonio Rigobello at the Conservatory of Vicenza and he successfully accomplished a specialization with Prof. Margarius at the Accademia Internazionale Incontri col Maestro of Imola. From a young age and throughout the years, he has won about twenty national Piano Competitions, attaining the 1. Prize in the most of them, as well as competing at several International Festivals (as “Cittá di Treviso”, “Camillo Togni” Brescia, “Il Solista e l’Orchestra” Campobasso). Also, he performed at the Premio Busoni, Prix Vandome, Beethoven Klavierwettbewerb in Vienna and in Brussel at the “Reine Elisabeth” Competition. Since 2004 he has been a member of the Musagète Ensemble, a widely renowned chamber music group that has recorded amongst others compositions of Schubert and Campogrande on behalf of Velut Luna. The latest cd with a recording of Chopin’s the Second Concert has just published by Stradivarius. They performed for Radio 3 National Broadcasts in programmes like “Piazza Verdi” and The Concerts at the Government (I Concerti del Quirinale). He regularly performs with Stefania Redaelli, with whom he already recorded the Brahms string quartets in the original four-handed version. Last but not least, he himself accomplished the orchestra conducting studies with Giancarlo Andretta and has conducted the Orchestra of Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, the “Padova and Veneto Orchestra” and the “Pomeriggi Musicali” Orchestra of Milan. He's led piano classes at the Darfo Conservatory.
Graduated in 1993 from the Conservatory of Vicenza with full marks and honours. He studied with Maestro F. Meloni, A. Carbonare and G. Sobrino.
He was selected as First Clarinet in various youth orchestras, in Switzerland, Germany and Italy.He has won various auditions in Italian orchestras, both with the clarinet and the bass clarinet.
From 1992 to 2014 he played in the Orchestra of the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza and collaborated with: Teatro alla Scala Orchestra, Verona Arena Orchestra, RAI National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra "G. Verdi ”in Milan, Trieste Theater Orchestra, Brescia and Bergamo Festival Orchestra, Genoa Theater Orchestra and others.
He has given concerts for many important Italian, European and USA Music associations, with particular attention to 20th and 21st century production.
He is a founding member of the "Ensemble Musagete" (since 2001) group with which for years he has deepened the chamber repertoire from the 18th century to the present day. He has performed several times live on Rai Radio Tre (Concerti del Quirinale) and has recorded various discs that have been excellently reviewed by specialized magazines. In addition to his activity as a clarinetist, he also performs concerts as a singer (bass voice).
August H. Winding
The Danish composer, Henrik August Winding, was the son of a clergyman who had a passion for collecting and arranging Danish folk songs. Naturally, August studied with his father. Soon, however, he was to move to greater things; he studied piano with Anton Ree who had known Frédéric Chopin. This was followed by composition lessons with Carl Reinecke and theory with no less a person than Niels Wilhelm Gade, the father of Danish music.
Carl Reinecke: (b Altona, 23 June 1824; d Leipzig, 10 March 1910). German composer, teacher, administrator, pianist and conductor. He was given a thorough musical education by his father, J.P. Rudolf Reinecke (b Hamburg, 22 Nov 1795; d Segeberg, 14 Aug 1883), a respected music theoretician and author of several textbooks. From 1845 Reinecke travelled through Europe, from Danzig to Riga; in Copenhagen he was appointed court pianist in 1846, where his duties included accompanying the violinist H.W. Ernst as well as giving solo recitals. He was given a particularly friendly reception in Leipzig by Mendelssohn and the Schumanns, and Liszt, whose daughter was later taught by Reinecke in Paris, spoke of his ‘beautiful, gentle, legato and lyrical touch’. In 1851 he moved to Cologne, where he taught counterpoint and the piano at Hiller’s conservatory. He also gave concerts with Hiller, who recommended him to Barmen. There as musical director and the conductor of several musical societies between 1854 and 1859, he significantly raised the standard of the town’s musical life. He then spent ten months in Breslau as director of music at the university and conductor of the Singakademie.
By 1860 his growing reputation brought him an appointment to teach at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he became the director in 1897. By selecting capable teachers who shared his conservative views and by improving the facilities and the syllabus, Reinecke transformed the conservatory into one of the most renowned in Europe. Grieg, Kretzschmar, Kwast, Muck, Riemann, Sinding, Svendsen, Sullivan and Weingartner were all pupils there; and to this distinguished list could be added many other names of equal repute, showing how exaggerated was the reproach, made particularly in north Germany, that Leipzig was a hotbed of reaction (although this criticism had some justification after 1880). But it cannot be denied that Reinecke considered it his responsibility as director to perpetuate the example of the Classical composers; he was very conscious of his position as a representative and guardian of tradition, and also made it his business to foster the music of the pre-Classical composers, particularly Bach, even exploring as far back as Palestrina. He was a sympathetic teacher who firmly believed in the necessity of a thorough grounding. In Leipzig, he was also the conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra until 1895 (when Nikisch succeeded him); a stern disciplinarian, he achieved a high standard of virtuosity from his players by his insistence on clarity of execution. Reinecke became a member of the Berlin Academy in 1875, received the honorary doctorate in 1884 and became a professor in 1885. He retired in 1902, though his creative work continued until the end of his life.
As a composer Reinecke was best known for his numerous piano compositions, representing virtually every musical form of the time and, despite being influenced by Mendelssohn’s melodic style, was stylistically nearer to Schumann. The exercises for young pianists and the piano sonatinas have become classics because of their charming melodies, as have the canons and nursery rhymes which are highly inventive and totally free from bourgeois sentimentality. Reinecke was a master of the so-called ‘Hausmusik’ and of the simpler forms popular at the time. His chamber music is distinguished and, in the later works in particular, attains a Brahmsian majesty and warmth within a variety of forms. His sonata for flute and piano, Undine, is his most frequently performed work. His most successful concertos are those for flute and for harp, and the first and third for piano, which well display his pleasant melodic sense and his admirable ear for orchestration; the piano concertos avoid grand soloistic mannerisms, and his own style of playing, with hands still and fingers curved, reflected his belief in classical practice. Of his three symphonies, the first employs small forces, while the second is a cyclically organized work on a grand scale. His operas, despite their Wagnerian trappings, were not successful; his better-known musical fairy tales, based in part on his own texts (written under the name Heinrich Carsten), were composed in a tasteful folk-style. Gifted in many fields, he was also a talented painter and poet. His lucidly written books and essays contain many observations still of interest.
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.