Montag, 30. Januar 2023

CHF 50 | 30.-

R. Schumann
Gedichte der Königin María Stuart op. 135 (5 Lieder) ;
Schöne Fremde op. 39 n° 6 ; Mondnacht op. 39 n° 5 ; Frühlingsnacht op. 39 n° 12 Fantasiestücke op. 73 n° 1 ; Märchenbilder op. 113 n° 3

J. Brahms
Dein blaues Auge op. 59 n° 8 ;
Liebestreu op. 3 n° 1 ; Nachtigall op. 97 n° 1 ; Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen op. 32 n° 2; Die Mainacht op. 43 n° 2
Zwei Gesänge op. 91
Der Jäger op. 95 n° 4 ; Der Gang zum Liebchen op. 48 n° 1 ; Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer op. 105 n° 2 ; Meine Liebe ist grün op. 63 n° 5

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Präsentation des Konzerts

Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart op.135 (5 Lieder)
It is well known that the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots – the Catholic queen of a Protestant nation – was a huge source of inspiration to artists with a passion for the theatre. For his part, Schumann was less interested in court intrigues or indeed the queen’s swashbuckling escapes from prison than in the tragedy of a woman awaiting her execution and writing these poems – which are indeed attributed to her. They have an inner quality that spoke to the distressed state of a musician ravaged by depression and tinnitus shortly before his death. These ‘farewells to the world’, dating from 1852, represent the final works for solo voice published in Schumann’s lifetime. Their minimalistic style no doubt traces its roots to Schubert’s late songs in Schwanengesang.

Liederkreis op.39: Mondnacht (‘Moonlit night’, no.5), Schöne Fremde (‘Fair foreign land’, no.6); Frühlingsnacht (‘Spring night’ no.12)
But before death comes life: composed in the prolific year of 1840 and nicknamed Liederjahr (the ‘year of song’) by Schumann’s biographers, the Liederkreis op.39 teems with light and colours. Here is not yet a Winterreise, the supreme, and most tragic example of this form: the composer can still extol the beauty of the elements, the fields full of flowers, the chirping birds. Schumann’s vision shows the dialogue of voice and piano at an apex of sophistication, equally its depiction of both scenery and human emotion. Schumann himself described this work as the most romantic music he had ever written.
Fantasiestücke op.73 no.1

An instrumental pause; this piece was scored for piano and clarinet, but Schumann specified that the piano’s dance could also be accompanied by a viola or cello. The word dance is appropriate, so much so does the melody embody the shifting fantasies of the imagination, the billows of a languishing soul. Nostalgia can be a kind of caress: Schumann encourages his performers to show off their delicacy and expressiveness (‘zart und mit Ausdruck’).

Märchenbilder (‘Fairytale Pictures’) op. 113 no.3
We conclude with this instrumental pair, the striking third section of an almost fairytale adventure, which Schumann composed in 1851. Let us close our eyes as we hear its unbridled cavalcade, where the rough tone of the strings evokes the mane of galloping horses, as we are plunged into a forest straight out of the brothers Grimm. In their freedom of firm and their bewitching intensity, the Märchenbilder are to violists what Bach’s Chaconne is to violinists: an essential journey and an eternal treasure.

Dein blaues Auge (‘Your blue eye’) op.59 no.8
As if like a sign, let us continue the programme without leaving Schumann – or at least his wife, for in the respite offered by this romantic interlude the pianist’s left hand whispers the famous ‘Clara theme’, whose musical talent was universally known… and her wondrous eyes. They were of course blue, and seemed to possess a miraculous power. In the space of two minutes, Brahms sculpts the paradox represented by the notion of losing oneself in the contemplation of a beautiful object… which can also see the viewer.

Liebestreu (‘Constancy’) op.3 no.1, Nachtigall (‘Nightingale’) op.7 no.1, Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen (‘Never to see you again’) op.32 no.2, Die Mainacht (‘May Night’) op.43 no.2, Zwei Gesänge (‘Two Songs’) op.91, Der Jäger (‘The Hunter’) op.95 no.4, Der Gang zum Liebchen (‘The way to the sweetheart’) op.48 no.1, Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer (‘My sleep grows ever quieter’) op.105 no.2, Meine Liebe ist grün (‘My love is green’) op.63 no.5
We end this programme by snaking our way from one musical period, from one shade of emotion, to another. Liebestreu was the first cycle published by Brahms, but it already evinced, with its daring echoes of Wagner, a rare level of vocal invention. In the face of misfortune in love, the musical rhetoric achieves the impressive feat of consoling as well as conveying the fatal outcome. The waltz Der Jäger paints a portrait of a hunter – of girls rather than animal prey. Continuing this ironic theme, and the cadences of a keyboard in overdrive, Der Gang zum Liebchen intermingles the joy of seeing one’s sweetheart again with the grief at her imminent death. Here is an ambiguity also reflected in Nachtigall, where a nightingale’s song evokes happiness and sadness at the same time. Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer reduces its effects to a minimum – all the better to amalgamate its contradictory sentiments. Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen does not diverge from this terrible ambiguity: a soul spurned beseeches its beloved, in accents that sound almost filled with hate, to send it to death, indeed to life. But Nature intervenes to assuage the torments of the lovers: a silver moon and some doves soften our Werther. It is as if Brahms’s life had always oscillated between these two romantic extremes: the anguish of love and the sticking plaster of beauty. Meine Liebe ist grün says much the same thing: vigour is swiftly extinguished, although the exhilaration of living it remains an eternal catalyst.

And among all these duets for piano and voice, three remarkable trios written for Joseph Joachim in which the viola (Brahms’s favourite string instrument) appears as a conciliatory third party. For if Geistliches Wiegenlied was a wedding present to the violinist and his wife, the second score was a gift twenty years later to the same couple in a time of upheaval, a desperate attempt to save their union by intoning a desire constantly satisfied (‘Gestillte Sehnsucht’). Without skirting over the bumps in the Joachims’ marriage, the score, concluding as it does on the desired harmony, did not succeed in predicting the rupture to come. Serge Daney wrote that a cinephile is one who expects too much of the cinema. Is a musical genius one who expects too much of music?

Arthur Dreyfus
Translation: Saul Lipetz

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