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Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
#1300179 11/05/09 08:22 PM
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Does anyone have a favored recording to recommend of this monumental piece?

Have any particular pianists been known for "definitive" (or at least strongly distinguished) recordings of Schumann generally or to be strongly associated with his music (in the way that, for example, Rubinstein was with Chopin)?

Steven

Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
sotto voce #1300186 11/05/09 08:52 PM
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There are a few live recordings by Richter on YouTube that are excellent. I own Kissin's recording, and I think that is quite good. There was also a live performance on YouTube by Pollini which was great, but that's unfortunately been taken down. I haven't listened to any of Pollini's studio recordings however.

I think I know who Janus would recommend...

Daniel


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Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Ridicolosamente #1300208 11/05/09 09:44 PM
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One of my absolute favorite pieces! So far, I have not heard a recording (from a famous pianist) to which I would say flatly: STAY AWAY FROM IT!

But some of my favorites are Hough, Hamelin, Richter, Pollini (who I believe is recognized widely as a "distinguished" Schumann interpreter), Argerich (whose Schumann is truly sublime, moreso to me than even her Chopin and Liszt), and of course Rubinstein. Apart from the first two, I'd think those are pretty standard for the Fantasie in particular. But I would encourage you to try Hough and Hamelin, both of whom aren't known for their Schumann (in fact, Hamelin's tends to be heavily criticized), but there's no denying that they play on a high level, even if they aren't quite to your liking ultimately. Hough has some interesting suprises; one of the most criminally neglected pianists alive.

Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Goldberg #1300218 11/05/09 10:06 PM
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My favorite is Pletnev - love the way he phrases, and voices the piece.
Another one I like is Geza Anda.

Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Phlebas #1300275 11/06/09 12:51 AM
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Andsnes is unconditionally recommended... technically superb!... and his recording is coupled with a magnificent Schumann F# minor Sonata, a very elusive fresco to bring off. Very few recordings (which I have heard) make a convincing case for this glorious, yet sprawling essay of early Schumann.

Otherwise, not surprisingly, I rate Argerich's impetuously youthful outlook very highly. It seldom pops up on anyone's short list of preferred recordings (and thank-you Goldberg for the heads up), but her take-no-prisoners approach to the 2nd movement, and that utterly heartfelt meditation on the last movement can be emotionally devastating. Perhaps I first heard it at a time when I was experiencing early disappointment in love, but I have never forgotten the impact Argerich had on me.

I still listen to that recording and am never disappointed. IMO, very underrated.


Jason
Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
argerichfan #1300298 11/06/09 02:15 AM
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I both discovered and fell in love with the Fantasy upon hearing a recording by Horowitz back in the early 1970s. I've heard other performances since then - both recorded and live - and the only one that came close IMHO was a live performance I attended by pianist Gyorgy Sandor in NYC in 2001 when Sandor was about 88 years old. Amazing !!


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Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Ridicolosamente #1300444 11/06/09 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Ridicolosamente
I think I know who Janus would recommend...
Yeah, well excuse me for wanting the forte six measures from the end of the last movement to be sustained, only dropping to piano for the last three chords -- as the score says. The widespread tradition of dropping to piano five measures from the end is despicable IMNSHO -- it's like rewriting the tale to have Beauty not going back to the Beast in the end.

My pickiness in this matter stems from the fact that I owned the score for many years before listening to a recording.

So, I repeat my recommendation for either of Larrocha's two recordings, with a preference for the earlier one on Decca/Philips/Universal/whatever-they're-called-nowadays. Dalberto (on Wea/Erato/Warner/whatever-they're-called-nowadays) does a sort of compromise between tradition and the score: he begins the fifth measure from the end forte, diminuendos so that the beginning of the next measure starts piano-ish, but crescendos again to forte just in time for the last poignant amen (thank the Goddess).

Also, an appalling number of pianists play the two penultimate measures twice as fast as notated, i.e.: dotted quarter note, dotted quarter rest and two dotted quarter notes instead of the score's dotted half note, dotted half rest, and two dotted half notes. I didn't know counting was so damn hard.


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Janus K. Sachs #1300506 11/06/09 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Janus K. Sachs
I didn't know counting was so damn hard.
Listen to an "amateur" play Clair de lune...


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Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Janus K. Sachs #1300810 11/06/09 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Janus K. Sachs
Yeah, well excuse me for wanting the forte six measures from the end of the last movement to be sustained, only dropping to piano for the last three chords -- as the score says.

Well have you heard Argerich's recording? She is not guilty. The retard six measures before the end culminates in an Adagio at the 2nd half of the 4th measure before the end, suggesting a quieting of the dynamics, but not radically.
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Also, an appalling number of pianists play the two penultimate measures twice as fast as notated, i.e.: dotted quarter note, dotted quarter rest and two dotted quarter notes instead of the score's dotted half note, dotted half rest, and two dotted half notes.

Argerich interprets the Adagio mentioned above as applying to the 4th measure from the end only, and takes the final three measures in strict time as dotted half notes. I just listened to it, and I can count! wink

Perhaps you have not heard Argerich's recording? It has never had particularly wide circulation, though admittedly Larrocha's recordings have been in and out of the catalogue. With due respect, you admire her more than I do. In her native repertoire she is nonpariél, but IMO when she takes Argerich on in the same repertoire, there has never been any contest.

For all that, I wish I had the barest fraction of the now departed great lady's talent. I did see her several times in concert -it was never disappointing- though I cannot say that she ever really set me on fire, and I have very few of her recordings in my library.

Argerich plays the Schumann Fantasie as if it were an impatient erotic declaration of love -just like the composer's intention- and that recording entered my life as I was just coming of age and experiencing what I now would quaintly consider puppy love. But it was big news back then, and I hope I never become so jaded as to loose sight of that huge redistribution of energy at that time.




Jason
Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
argerichfan #1301069 11/07/09 12:18 PM
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Actually, the Argerich recording is the first recording of the piece that I obtained. I find it wonderful overall (and is still part of my library), but certain aspects of her rubato bug me on repeated listenings. If memory serves (I can't access most of my library at the moment), she misses some dynamic details and even a few delicious strands of counterpoint that the score says should be brought out.

Regarding the conclusion of the last movement, IMHO I don't think the Adagio indication suggests a quieting of dynamics. If anything, the last flatted sixth (always such a poignant scale degree when used in the major mode) is a chromatic intensification that can play a part in a dynamic intensification. My ears simply can't stand a decrease of dynamics before the last three chords. I suppose years of hearing the piece in my head before listening to any recording really ruined me in that regard, especially since the tradition of softening in the passage is so bloody widespread (even Pollini does it, not to mention Andsnes, Perahia, Horowitz, etc. ad nauseum).

I find it odd that Argerich interprets the Adagio tempo indication the way she does. I've always assumed the indication applies to the last three measures as well.


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Janus K. Sachs #1301247 11/07/09 07:17 PM
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My favorite is Richter, hands down. Pollini comes close though.

Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
ianholic #1301260 11/07/09 07:55 PM
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Is the alternate ending of the third movement the first one Schumann wrote or an after thought? WAs it one of those instances where Schumann changed things after the piece was first published?

Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
Janus K. Sachs #1301853 11/08/09 11:14 PM
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Nice post, Janus.
Originally Posted by Janus K. Sachs

I find it odd that Argerich interprets the Adagio tempo indication the way she does. I've always assumed the indication applies to the last three measures as well.

Well I don't think that is particularly a 'given'. Schumann plants the 'Adagio' over one half a bar, so do we really assume he meant that to continue through the end, or was it a matter for the interpreter? Beethoven would probably have been more specific, Schumann tended to play games.

But ultimately this is your (thoughtful) interpretation vs. Argerich. Don't you think she had a reason for doing what she did? Janus, the score is not positively clear on this matter, and when one is dealing with a pianist on the summit of Parnassus as Argerich, isn't it really a matter of selecting which re-interpretive genius we're going to put our money on?

Argerich -like her great predecessors Horowitz, Rachmaninov, et al- is very instinctive. She is no grand intellectual, and besides Busoni, what utterly great pianist was an intellectual?


Jason
Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
argerichfan #1301885 11/09/09 12:37 AM
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Horowitz was to a certain extent. He was very well read, and spent much of his free time (i.e. not giving concerts) studying music of all genres, including chamber music, orchestral music, and of course bel canto opera which probably informed his piano technique more than anything else. But he certainly didn't let it encroach unduly on his beautifully spontaneous style. smile


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
Re: Schumann Fantasie Op. 17
argerichfan #1301902 11/09/09 01:46 AM
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By Schumann's time, I've always assumed that tempo indicators like the final Adagio (especially because it appears in big bold type as opposed to small italic type, implying that it is not a simple momentary tempo modifier like "ritard") would apply until another tempo is specified (or is negated by an a tempo indication). If tempi and/or tempo modifiers applied only to a certain point, Schumann may have insisted on the equivalent of small italic type with a dotted line (such as the many ritard - - - - indications in the first movement, or the use of dotted lines in Brahms's Op. 119 No. 2). I've taken a brief glance at the first movement just now, and I saw three ritard markings (in small italic type) that lack an indicator (such as a dotted line) as to when they should end. Two are on the first page, and since they follow one after another I've always assumed this is Schumann's way to indicate that the ritard continues -- such as the multiple ritards culminating in the movement's first Adagio indication. The third occurs towards the end of the exposition. These ritards are "negated" by the return of the opening motive and texture, thus implying a return to the opening tempo, even though an "a tempo" indicator is lacking.

I'm not putting myself against Argerich or anyone capable of playing the work. I'm simply stating how I hear the work in my head, and my utter frustration that many recordings do not match my inner ear. I'm sure this occurs to many us, especially when it comes to works which are very dear to us (this point came up in our PM exchange regarding Elgar's Second Symphony).

Somewhat beside the point, I also don't think there is (or should be) any dichotomy/conflict between intellect and emotion (and in any case the "dichotomy" seems more and more like a cultural construct to me). IMHO one must be capable of both thinking and feeling intensely. One is missing out on a whole lot in life if either dominates.


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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