András Schiff / Robert Schumann | Geistervariationen | 2122/23



“Pianist András Schiff has made a specialty of the music of Schumann for years, and his readings continue to get richer and more incisive. What's remarkable about Schiff's playing is his mastery of touch and texture, the way he carves out sculptures in sound that are at once delicate and sharply defined. Just as in his performances of Bach on the modern piano, Schiff gives Schumann's music a crystalline textural clarity that still allows for a range of highly expressive moods and tonal colours.” - Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

András Schiff, one of the great pianists of our era, traces the development of Schumann’s piano music, from the youthful “Papillons”, to the C Major Fantasy op. 17 – in which the composer sought new routes for the sonata after Beethoven – , and onwards to the final (and seldom-performed) “Geistervariationen”, the “Ghost variations”. By this time, Schumann’s genius was in thrall to escalating illness, and he believed the variations to the original theme were dictated to him by angels.

Work on the “Thema mit Variationen” was disrupted by a suicide attempt on February 27, 1854; the following day, however, Schumann finished it, his last completed piano work.

Amongst the other highlights in the programme here are the thirteen “Kinderszenen”, the pieces which helped establish Schumann’s reputation as a composer of unique insights. In the liner notes Wolf-Dieter Seiffert writes that with this “first significant work in the history of music to put the child at centre stage, the composer set off a genuine spring tide of romanticised children’s music. The pieces only seem to be easy to play: they demand strongly differentiated nuances of attack.” The spirit of high romanticism is extended in the “Waldszenen” (“Forest scenes”) op. 82, which “draws us into the highly intense emotions of the traveller in the woods, for in addition to their sounds of idyll and longing, the secret darkness of the forest and of the soul makes its effect in every piece.”