My opening remarks (more or less) to recent solo recitals which I gave at Tannery Pond concert series, NY; Baruch College, NY; and the Friends of chamber music in Reading, PA.
"In earth's variegated dream, a quiet sustained note is heard through all other notes, to those who secretly listen".
This poem by Friedrich Schlegel was quoted by Robert Schumann on the first page of his great C major Fantasy.
How ambiguous can one get? A quiet, sustained note, that is heard through all other notes to those who secretly listen?
Is it a note? a chord? a harmony?
perhaps a theme, a melody?
or maybe it is a character, a person?
Ambiguity is central to unveiling some of the mystery in the music of Robert Schumann, whose 200 anniversary we are celebrating this year. A composer that was as passionate about music as he was about literature. Above all, he was highly inspired and influenced by the literary works of Jean Paul and E.T.A. Hoffman.
A beautiful yet horrifying short story by E.T.A. Hoffman tells the story of a simple neurotic man who falls desperately in love with a young beautiful girl - the daughter of a famous professor. The poor man expresses his love to her, his wishes to be with her, to dance with her, to touch her. She is indeed special, so special that his friends tell him she is made out of wax! The man, however, sees only heavenly beauty in her eyes, in her silence, in her strange walk.
Is this a dream? Is she for real? Who is right? the poor man or his friends?
The author does not take sides. He allows us, the listeners / the readers to go along with this individual on his emotional journey which will most likely lead to his pitiful end, or to stand with his friends in the realm of reality. Or is it not?
Robert Schumann also falls in love with a beautiful young girl - the daughter of his famous piano teacher. And he goes on an emotional roller-coaster ride which manifested itself in some of the greatest and most important masterpieces of the nineteen century. His love to the young Clara against the strong opposition of her father is an integral part of his early music: the unattainable love - which is such an important characteristic of the Romantic era.
But that is not all. To immerse oneself in the music of Robert Schumann, is to walk within a very fine delicate line were the implicit is explicit, and the explicit is redundant. His Fantasy which you are about to hear was originally conceived as a one movement piece, "a deep lament to you Clara". Shortly after it was transformed into a three movement "Grand Sonata for Ludwig van Beethoven", with added names to the movements - Ruins, Trophies, Palms. And ultimately the names were omitted, and the title was changed to "Fantasy". So.... Beethoven will "visit" us in this grand work, as well as Clara, and her father. We might also find ourselves in the company of Liszt and Chopin, Mendelssohn or Paganini, and definitely his alter-egos the demonic Florestan as well as the introverted Eusebius will be there.
And there is more... much more! But this is where you, the listener, will decide what to believe and what not; who is invited, and who is left alone; what is true and what is imagined... what is real, and what is just... a FANTASY.