The Virtuoso III
CD 13 of 24
Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) and Serge Rachmaninov (1873 – 1943), although separated by a few generations, share many traits. For one, their concertos heard on this disc have been popular since their debuts and have become standard fare for any aspiring concert pianist, both works having memorable melodies that will keep you humming long after the music stops.
Both composers suffered terribly from depression, Schumann truly being one of the most tortured individuals in music. His sister committed suicide when he was fifteen, and his father died a mere ten months later. His mother did not want him to study music, and he had an imaginary double personality, the male personality being Florestan, the effeminate personality Eusebius. (He would later name a section of his famous piano cycle Carnaval, Florestan-Eusebius). So, no shortage of issues; but as you can hear in his concerto, as well as in Dichterliebe on CD 12, it did not interfere with his writing of beautiful music. His wife Clara, née Wieck, played with Robert on many concert tours in which he conducted, the Piano Concerto being a favourite of the couple.
In the years prior to writing his Second Piano Concerto, Rachmaninov was in a deep funk, unable to compose. Writing to his friend Modest Tchaikovsky (yes, Peter Ilyich’s brother) he wrote, “Two years have passed since I was with you at Klin, and in those two years, apart from one song, I have not composed a single note”. His friends insisted he seek some professional help, which he received from Dr. Nikolay Dahl, an expert in hypnotherapy. Four months of daily sessions in 1900 broke the depression, but did little in breaking the writer’s block. Finally, in August, he broke through, completing the second and third movements of the Second Piano Concerto, the first movement following five months later, dedicating the work to Dr. Dahl. By way of comparison, Schumann wrote his concerto in the exact opposite order and took much longer. The final movements arrived four years after the first movement had been completed.
One other trait the two composers shared was their desire to be concert artists. Rachmaninov was extremely successful at this, touring the world playing not only the works of the masters but also his own. Schumann, in contrast, wanted to be a concert artist, but an affliction to the middle and index fingers of his right hand prevented this. Schumann, in using a contraption designed to stretch ones fingers into shape, caused the opposite. One doctor stated, “when playing the piano, he cannot use his middle finger at all”. Although this claim has been contested by others who said he could still play, it was not up to the standards necessary for a concert career. The concert artist in the family would be Clara, with Robert often being referred to as “her husband”.
Rachmaninov left his native Russia shortly after the Russian Revolution, never to return. Moving to the United States, he settled in sunny California. Schumann’s life ended in a sanatorium, after he tried to do himself in by hurling himself into the Rhine. He had no interest in ever seeing Clara again but he was more than happy to see his friend Johannes Brahms, who, when dropping by, would engage Schumann in some four-hand piano music.
(Please find our recommended audio excerpts for this CD on the bottom of the "Overview" page.)
- Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.54
- 1. 1. Allegro affettuoso14:27
- 2. 2. Intermezzo (Andantino grazioso)5:13
- 3. 3. Allegro vivace10:21Sviatoslav Richter, Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, Witold Rowicki
- Sergey Vasil'yevich Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943)Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18
- 4. 1. Moderato11:09
- 5. 2. Adagio sostenuto11:54
- 6. 3. Allegro scherzando11:40Sviatoslav Richter, Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, Stanislaw Wislocki