The struggle between momentary inspiration and the great Forms’ moral needs cost Schumann, in time, a fall into darkness. His mind, inhabited by voices, built more and more monuments to Forms which were already fossils by his time, such as the Sonata, Symphony, or Oratorio. His impulsive nature (surprised, in turn, by the continual flow of themes arising from mysterious, and at times sinister, skies) was forced into a discipline whose destiny was to justify the genius, to redeem it from its sources earned by work alone. He had the self-taught man’s shame for the easiness of his inventions. In his Hausmusik, the pieces he wrote for amateurs and for domestic use, his neurosis and his constant need for academic recognition found rest against the destructive spur etching his mind.
The Drei Romanzen op. 94 are no lyrical confessions, but rather Sonata-Forms which are compressed in the instant of their emersion into consciousness. In these glimmers, welcomed as unexpected guests, there is no Development, no articulation of accomplished structures. The first of them is the rudimentary elaboration of a ghost theme; the second is a lyrical Scene at whose center is a narrating voice; the last is one of those moments where Schumann employs rhythmical variants as doppelgänger of thematic elaboration. The internal relationships among the three pieces are subtle, ramified and ably hidden. Schumann’s dissociation into parallel identities was no schizoid pathology, but rather a shamanic technique for evoking the Creator Spiritus, which, eventually, fled from its author’s hands. Florestan’s elan pervades the two external pieces of this op. 94, whilst a measure of civility, the tone of a Pater Profundus, inhabits the central piece. It is singular how the composer intuited, in his doubling between the two doppelgänger, the oppositive function of the two hemispheres of the brain. The right one is in charge of creative imagination; the left one of its organization into formal structures. This mystique of the unconscious is the hidden key to the whole of Schumann.
The nature of Fairy-tale accompanied Romanticism as an absent-minded, unpredictable, at times evil sister. Märchen, the telling of a Fairy-tale, alludes to a double nature which is characteristic for the German soul. Hyperuranian worlds appear inside a flower’s corolla, or in the eyes of elementary, unconscious creatures; this leads to blend the matter of daily life with the perspective on an Elsewhere which is always unattainable, but still mirrored in it. It is the ineffability of an instant, the world in a grain of sand, as it was evoked by mystics such as Jacob Böhme and Meister Eckhart. The spirit of Protestantism animates the Märchenbilder op. 113, which present themselves as an essential Symphonic Poem in four tableaux. In Nicht schnell we find the presentation of the natural landscape, the fairy tale’s place. In Lebhaft, the teenager protagonist begins his itinerary toward the quest for himself which gave life to a whole literary genre in Germany, i.e. the Bildungsroman, the novel of formation. A Rasch follows, where premonition and regret blend with each other, through thematic allusions spreading like sunrays toward the preceding and following pieces. Schumann creates an arch-shaped microstructure representing the suspended time (oriented toward an obsessive past and a foreseen future) of Romantic fairy tales. The blending, in op. 113, of the genres Theme and Variations with Rondeau indicates a mark of genius of the composer: the classical Forms persist as narrative expedients, as scenarios for interior dramas whereby varied repetition and hallucinatory returns are not techniques for the Development, but rather descriptions of psychical conditions.
The operatic overture survived, like a scrap of infinity, through the evolutions of musical styles towards Modernity. The Adagio und Allegro op. 70 reveals Schumann’s attraction for Opera, to which genre he offered just one, painful contribution, his Genoveva op. 81. The dialectics between lyricism and frantic actions, which is the soul of musical theatre, is resumed here, aphorism-like, within the short space of a dramatic gesture.
Once more, the composer demonstrates himself to be interested in the potential of storytelling found in this contraposition of movements of the soul, rather than of themes as happened with the Classical Style. Schumann was the child of a publisher who was also an able popularizer; he conceived music as a language parallel with that of literature. His music has a double value, and frequently opens toward ciphered messages – texts hidden under the notes, which are expressed through letters in German music. Eric Sams, in Clara’s Theme, revealed such a schizoid strategy, capable of multiplying the game of mirrors found in Robert’s creative mind, up to vertiginous exponential progressions. The theme of this Adagio belongs to such a “prosody of imagination”, and alludes to an Epics of interior life, which is then unchained, in the ensuing Allegro, into the canonic tragical model of Catastrophe and Redemption. The structure of an “inverted telescope”, with the theme varied at first, and then progressively re-composed in its germinal motifs, becomes here a hermetic (for its brevity) symbol for what makes life itself, in Schumann’s eyes, when it is expressed through music: i.e. to become, in time, what one is.
The Fünf Stücke im Volkston op. 102 are inspired by an even more blatant autobiographic inspiration; they are already burdened with the feeling for an incipient insanity. Schumann’s threading toward delirium (faithful to the paradoxical nature of his ambivalence) is not an opening toward increasingly unstable chromaticism, but rather the recovery of ancient “modes”, the cipher of an ecstatic spirituality, free from human voices, from whose boundary angels’ faces look out, damning those looking at them. Under the pretext of evoking folk music, the composer dedicates himself to almost methodical esoteric ciphering. Thus, Mit Humor bears the subtitle of “Vanitas vanitatum”. Schumann’s humour is no thoughtless joke; it is the territory of shadows, of the contorted, of the ghostly. The alienating resonances, representing a chasm between gaze and feeling, are captured by a kind of a monastic cantus firmus, pervaded by a demonic overturning of meaning. The following Langsam is an old-fashioned Romance, like a troubadour’s Aubade. Schumann employs the stylistic traits of the past as fetishes signifying lost things, in his ritual museum of memory. They stay there not for a nostalgic memento, but rather to damn it. Nicht schnell, mit viel Ton zu spielen implies a full-throated singing which would appear to be a vital elan, but rather serves in order to cover the discordant voices, the emersion of non-human calls which, as Schumann knew well, would sooner or later call him to them. In the years when he wrote this op. 102, he had become almost dumb, focused on conversations which the others could not hear, and that music such as this allowed him to suffocate. The piece demonstrates the presences of that “eluded counterpoint”, an allusion to secondary figurations which are not traced on paper, and which would crazily emerge in the later Gesänge der Frühe op. 133. Nicht zu rasch is one of those moths’ dances in the dying last ray, which are so close, in Schumann, to rigor mortis. Death, the Sun’s doppelgänger, enters in dialogue, in this piece, in a secret language of his own.
The bipolar syndrome, a woodworm which eroded the Master’s consciousness, alternated depressive with manic stages, when all feelings – first and foremost that for time – became frantic. Closing his op. 102, Schumann inserts one of those fugues which annihilate themselves into an infinite All (nature giving life just in order to reabsorb, in her becoming, all creatures); they constitute the most terrible feature of his music. This Form, Stark und markiert, in a perennial evolution, and which could be unending, exemplifies a line by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Beauty is the Terrible at its beginning”. Too much light dazzles, and leads one to collapse inside every depression of the land. The Master feared his own euphoria, knowing that the fire of joy would leave nothing but ashes. Hence the indefinable, disquieting tone of this music.
The Phantasiestücke, the “Fantasy pieces”, almost epitomize Schumann’s whole oeuvre. This term alludes to a sabbath of apparitions which are not ordered into a sequence; a wandering of the thought on memories transposed into grotesque figures, as coalesced feelings enveloped by a dark gaze. There is something persecutory in this eruption of non-organized memories, which music merely records. It is the language of dream, which Sigismund Freud defined as being characterized by a “shift in meaning” and “condensation”, thus resuming in a sentence the compositional technique employed by Schumann in his Drei Phantasiestücke op. 73. Thick, violent motifs, charged with potential energy, through minimal passages become, in Zart und mit Ausdruck, both seductive and tragic, as if falling in love implied, in its surfacing, the consciousness of an unavoidable loss. It is an “eluded Rondeau”: another Form invented by Schumann, and frequently found in his music. Lebhaft, leicht lives through an unreflective propulsion, which immediately fades into a resigned folding. Schumann condensed the bithematicism of the Sonata Form into the two half-phrases of a same idea. Once more, this “dramaturgy of Form” reveals itself as being one of the gateways for his soul. With Rasch und mit Feuer we get back to the domain of mania, this time observed by Florestan; in a short trait, the entire landscape of its manifestations coalesces. The technique of a “rhythm in perpetual regeneration” reduces the thematic materials to cells which scrape, through their continual repetition, the musical line. They prevent all evolutions, and turn the piece into the persecutory appearance of a ghostly presence.
Seeing eternity in an instant can be a blessing of time, or else the manifestation of mania. Schumann always knew that the latter was his own, in his music.
Alessandro Zignani © 2022
Paolo Ghidoni was born in Mantova, Italy in 1964 and graduated at the young age of 17 under the guidance of Ferruccio Sangiorgi. Following this instruction, he attended chamber music courses at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole with the Trio di Trieste and at the Accademia Chigiana di Siena where, for three years (1983-85) he worked towards the completion of the distinguished violin diploma from the class of Maestro Franco Gulli. In addition to his studies with M. Gulli, Paolo Ghidoni has also studied with Ivri Gitlis at the Accademie de Sion, Franco Claudio Ferrari in Mantova and with Salvatore Accardo in Cremona. As a soloist and chamber musician, Ghidoni has performed more than 1500 concerts. He is a founding member of the prestigious Trio Matisse (1983), which won the "Vittorio Gui" prize in Florence when Ghidoni was only 19 years old. He has widely performed in Europe, the United States, Australia, Israel, China and South America. Paolo Ghidoni has collaborated with various musicians such as: Mario Brunello, Enrico Dindo, il Trio d'Archi della Scala with Franco Petracchi, Giuliano Carmignola, and Danilo Rossi. In addition, he has collaborated with hornists: Ifor James, Hermann Baumann and Jonathan Williams and also with various pianists, one of which being Bruno Canino.
After an excellent academic preparation (top marks, honours and mentions of honor in Italy and Diplome Superieur d ‘Execution at the Ecole Normale “A.Cortot ” in Paris) he has received awards from the most prestigious piano competitions (Washington, Pretoria, Busoni, Viotti, etc.). Tezza ‘s intense concert activities have lead him to play in the most famous concert halls and to collaborate with finest musicians as Ashkenazy, Ughi, Hogwood, Brunello, Carmignola. After having completed also the study of the violin and orchestra conductor he began a new career leading very important ensembles in Europe, Asia, America and Africa, often doubling his role as conductor and soloist. Tezza, the conductor, presents a vast repertoire, from baroque to contemporary music passing through opera (Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”, Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” and Piazzolla’s “Maria de Buenos Aires”). Over the years, he has developed a successful artistic partnership with violinist Paolo Ghidoni. Apart from a very large number of performances they have given as a duo, the two artists recorded together the first album with the Sonatas for piano and violin by J.Brahms (On Classical / AEVEA). He is well-known to the public and critics as an artist with a strong personality who never stops looking through scores to find unique ways of interpreting them, for new expressive logics, new sonorities. He has been invited to hold masterclasses at very important institutes: Universitè de S. Esprit in Beirut (where he obtained a chair as Professeur invitè), the Conservatory and NBU in Sofia, the Victorian College of the Arts of Melbourne and Hamilton Waikato University in Australia and NewZealand, the University of Florida and South Florida, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, University of Kentucky, Emporia State University, Southern Oregon University, University of Nebraska, Fort Hays State University, the UNEAC in La Habana, Universidade de São Paulo, Gumi Academy (Korea), Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy in Riga, Estonian Academy of Music in Tallin, DIT Conservatory in Dublin, the Edinburgh Napier University and the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa where he has given a series of televised concerts. He’s permanent artistic director of the Stravinskij Chamber Orchestra and he conducts concert-series and musical festivals in Europe and in South America. He has recorded for Velut Luna, AS-Disc, Balkanton, Klingsor and On-Classical / AEVEA – Naxos of America He’s Permanent Professor of piano at the “Conservatory Pedrollo” in Vicenza-Italy.
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.