Schumann: Scenes and Fantasies - Yarden
Challenge Classics CC 72776
Classical - Instrumental
Schumann: 3 Fantasiestucke, Op. 111, Fantasie, Op. 17, Waldszenen, Op. 82
Einav Yarden (piano)
The three works on this CD span a period of fifteen years – years in which the young Schumann suffered forcible separation from his beloved Clara, followed by their marriage and a brief period of relative calm, to the increasing bouts of mental instability which were to close him off from the world around him until his death.
The piano Fantasiestücke op. 111 was composed in 1851 during a time of deteriorating mental health and increasing disillusionment with his post as Music Director of the Düsseldorf Music Society. In contrast to the youthfully extrovert Fantasiestücke op. 12 of 1837, these three untitled pieces are “of a serious and passionate character”, as Clara described them, their bold harmonies intensifying their expressivity.
The Fantasie in C major op. 17 is one of Schumann’s most powerful large-scale piano works, composed during the bitter period of his enforced separation from Clara.
Schumann completed his cycle of nine forest piano miniatures, Waldszenen, in 1849, while struggling with increasing bouts of mental instability and depression. Each piece is headed by a descriptive title. These masterly tone paintings display Schumann’s genius in creating miniature images consummate in expression, characterisation and mood.
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - June 4, 2018
Two years ago I heard Einav Yarden for the first time (Haydn: 6 Piano Sonatas - Yarden) and I was immediately taken by surprise. What an elegant style, what a transparent toucher, what an accomplished pianist! For her latest release, with a selection of some of Schumann’s finest and some of his deepest emotional piano jewels, covering all the disturbing stages of his life, Yarden proves once again to be amongst the best pianists around, delivering here an attractive, well-balanced recital.
On the surface, Schumann is possibly one of the most lyrical piano and song romantics of them all. But deep down lives another creature; a sensitive personality whose mind struggles with the vicissitudes of life. If any expression applies to Schumann it must be: “Himmel hoch jauchzend, zu Tode betrübt” (sky-high shouting for joy, saddened to death). He thus offers to any passionate and intelligently gifted pianist a double-faced treasure trove of lyrical poetry as well as a palette of hidden sentiments, whether expressing hope or disillusion. This clearly asks for an accomplished interpreter who can safely handle its varying subtleties and musical mindsets. It, therefore, needs someone who does more than playing the score, i.e. someone who can play the soul as well. Is Yarden such a talented pianist? I firmly believe so!
The Fantasiestücke Op. 111 are pianistically as well as interpretatively demanding; reason perhaps why they are not so often played. The first one is marked ‘very fast’, but also ‘mit leidenschaftlichem Vortrag’ (passionately delivered). Few are able to do that as passion is almost impossible to deliver when playing very fast. I know of only a handful of pianists who can, like, for instance, Severin von Eckhardstein, winner of the 2003 Concours Reine Elisabeth (not available in high resolution). Yarden joins this select group with a somewhat lighter touch than Eckhardstein’s, but all the same most convincingly. And in the second she ably creates an ambience of dreamy resignation leading into troubled dismay; a masterly portrayal of opposing elements. And what I particularly like is that she does so without obstinate exaggeration, leaving room for the listener to participate in the emotions as generated by (this) phantasy. In the third, she cleverly mops up all the passion of the previous two in a piercing statement of drama and defiance.
The Fantasie Op. 17, is a mainstay in piano literature and “the most passionate thing I have ever written”, laying bare Schumann’s feelings for his “distant beloved”. Yarden takes us on an engaging soul-searching tour in young Schumann’s longing and wanting to conquer 17-year-old Clara Wieck. Where under the hands of some male interpreters it sounds like a battle, Yarden persuasively exposes Schumann’s dualistic approach between hope and despair. Despair as expressed in the extremely difficult middle movement, where Schumann opens all the valves of his creative mind to let emotion flow freely. (Is there also an element of showing off, I wonder, to let Papa Wieck, who was against Robert’s advances, see how good he is?). Einav Yarden sails sovereignly through the technically complex structures while giving sense to what lies underneath. A deeply moving account, landing her audience in the more peaceful waters of the final movement: a love song, lovingly played.
After all these emotions the listener is allowed to unwind with what Schumann is famous for: a series of small, melodious pieces. Although being his last piano solo work before he lost grip on his mind, the forest scenes still show an incredible ability to create nostalgic poetry, like going back to where it all began. Yarden dishes up the six forest scenes with verve, if not to say: with inspiring childish curiosity, played charmingly and inquisitively, to bring this recital to a most satisfactory close.
As for the recording: it is so clear and detailed that one hears the humming of Einav in the slow movement of Op. 17. She’s not the only one and I take this as a sign of total commitment!
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