"I decided to devote my latest Hortus release to Robert Schumann, a composer whose entire chamber music output I have had the fortune and the privilege of performing.
The choice of recording the piano works brought together on this disc thus stems from an artistic imperative nurtured intellectually and matured over years of study.
As with my album ‘Brahms the Progressive’ which came out last year, the intention was to choose scores that could provide an effective (albeit obviously partial) synthesis of the basic characteristics of Schumann’s oeuvre.
With Schumann, the Romantic composer par excellence, we observe a complete symbiosis between life and art, and dramatic contrast between the real and the ideal emerges in his music with unusual expressive potency. He is the most ‘literary’ of musicians. (To him Hoffmann and Jean Paul – to cite only these two – are more than sources of inspiration, and the characters they created are genuine alter egos).
It is perhaps for this reason that, in an absolute way, Schumann is amongst the most modern. Hence his disturbing relevance for today is what has made the most impact on me. The fact that, amongst the Greats, Schumann alone was not an extraordinary pianist as well, results in his music often being disconnected and devoid of any direct reference to the instrument, hence providing the performer with incredibly fascinating technical and musical challenges.
No need to go into detail about the three compositions I have chosen for this disc: I am grateful to Professor Antonio Rostagno for his exhaustive historical/musical study and the young Maria Paola Colombo for her moving ‘Fantasia’ inspired by the Geister-Variationen.
I nonetheless find it important to emphasize how the choice of recording the 1838 version of the Kreisleriana op.16 (much less well-known than the definitive one of 1850) was dictated by reasons at once historical and emotional: it seems to me that this first edition by Schumann, even more than the other, shows the full revolutionary scope of Schumannian writing, and it is highly interesting to note that no one – from Chopin to Liszt and even including Clara – thoroughly comprehended this immense masterwork.
My affinity with the Geister-Variationen stems from an affection and a particular emotion; it has always deeply impressed me to reflect upon a work whose composition straddles the composer’s suicide attempt, and the last variation is one of the most moving works it has ever been granted me to perform.
In between, the Bunte Blätter, perhaps yet another underrated composition but replete – from the very title onward – with colors and emotions; colours and emotions for which I felt, as with Brahms, that the Fazioli F278 was the ideal instrument to achieve a perfect rendition.