SCHUMANN: Waldszenen, Op. 82; Kreisleriana, OP. 16; Theme and 5 Variations in E-flat Major, “Geistervariationen“ – Fabrizio Chiovetta – Palexa

SCHUMANN: Waldszenen, Op. 82; Kreisleriana, OP. 16; Theme and 5 Variations in E-flat Major, “Geistervariationen”- Fabrizio Chiovetta – Palexa CD-0542, 65:14 [Distr. by  Allegro] ****:

Recorded in Quebec 2-3 October 2006, this all-Schumann recital from Swiss-born virtuoso Fabrizio Chiovetta (b. 1976) adds another young disciple of musical Romanticism into the select roster of initiates in the Davids-League. The music extends over some sixteen years in Schumann’s development, from the 1838 Kreisleriana after E.T.A. Hoffmann to the 1849 Forest Scenes, concluding with Schumann’s last score written in 1854, just prior to his suicide attempt and subsequent incarceration to an asylum in Endenich. This score remained suppressed until 1941, only to emerge in somewhat the same light as his misbegotten Violin Concerto in D Minor, a symbol of mental disintegration and musical fixation.

The nine pieces of the Waldszenen unfold with enthusiastic directness, with Chiovetta urging a soft palette from his Hamburg Steinway, courtesy of engineer Martin Leveille. The opening Entritt plays like a Schubert song, while the ensuing Jaeger auf der Lauer exudes Florestan’s virile optimism. Lonely Flowers traces a delicate semi-gavotte among the blooms in Wordsworth. We can hear the influence of Bach in Verrufene Stelle, but no less of folk song. Lyric ingenuousness marks both Friendly Landscape and The Village Inn, but the Cheshire Cat might be chasing the Prophet Bird, as the flitting figures coil and dissolve almost in the same moment. The Hunting Song breaks out the French horns and a pack of horses and hounds, the energy jubilant and guiltless. The Abschied bids farewell, less to a real forest than to a sylvan gesture of the mind, a green thought in a green shade.

The volatile imagination in Schumann finds a splendid vehicle in Hoffmann’s antic Kapellmeister, an artist with Hamlet’s capacity for applied madness. A series of fantasies or reveries ensues, preferably in G Minor or B-flat Major, the keys of Schumann’s passionate Sonata and his Humoreske, respectively. The aggressive and poetic sides of Schuman run rampant, especially in the Sehr Rasch section, the bass throwing in all kinds of knotty syncopations. The Sehr Lebhaft section of the Kreisler suite anticipates Debussy in several chordal progressions and in the liquid, mercurial alternations of registration. Other sections skip or prance in fairy-tale marches, symbolic of Eusebius’ dreamy musings, always self-absorbed in the colors of bass ostinati and waves of repeated arpeggios. Much of Kreisleriana could be “relegated”  to the level of an astonishing series of etudes, but more as exercises in imaginative gestures than mere finger studies. But a passionate purveyor of this opus will bestow upon them a divine character, their sonorous novelty in every charismatic turn.

The melancholy Theme in E-flat plays like a chorale, while its chromatic evolution anticipates the intricate baroque mind of Busoni. The second variant clearly moves in canon, after the late Bach of the Art of Fugue. The Poco piu mosso variation adds a chromatic series of broken chords into the chorale mix; the Variation IV will remind auditors of Chopin’s C Minor Prelude. The fifth conveys a nervous anxiety, less “ghostly” than genuinely haunted by inner demons, albeit quietly conservative and somberly subdued.

–Gary Lemco

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