Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Classics: Taking a closer look at Schumann's "Carnaval"


Cézanne's "Pierrot and Harlequin" (1888)

by Ken

We began listening to Schumann's great piano suite Carnaval Friday night, listening to contrasting pairs -- the composer's dual self-portraint in "Eusebius" and "Florestan" and the "Noble Waltz" and "German Waltz" plus the rousing conclusion, the "March of the League of David Against the Philistines."

We're not going to go as far into Carnaval as I expected Friday night, for various reasons. Partly it's because I've just acquired a couple of recordings I didn't have, and have a number of others on order. But partly it's because exquisitely crafted miniatures can go by so quickly that we can scarcely taken them in, and so I want to slow these down -- sort of the way we did back in January 2011 with the exquisitely crafted miniatures that make up Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, which spread over two previews and two main posts ("We begin our walk-through of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition" and "Concluding our walking tour").

So today we're going to focus just on the beginning and the end of Carnaval, building on the portions we've already heard. And we're going to start with another contrasting pair, the first numbers in the suite following the "Préambule," Schumann's portraits of two stock commedia dell'arte figures.

SCHUMANN: Carnaval, Op. 9:
2. Pierrot: Moderato (2/4)
3. Arlequin: Vivo (3/4)


I can tell you that our performers are two members of our Carnaval "team," which is shaping up to consist of:

Claudio Arrau
Alicia de Larrocha
Nelson Freire
Wilhelm Kempff
Yevgeny Kissin
Leonard Pennario
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Charles Rosen
Arthur Rubinstein

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