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An Exciting Rediscovery

Schumann premiere in a matinee of Southern German Radio

By Thomas Rübenacker

The premiere of a piece by Robert Schumann is already a spectacular affair in itself: so much can still be discovered from the strangest and purest master of Romanticism. Joachim Draheim however, well-known Schumann expert and author of this matinee in the broadcast hall of the Sueddeutscher Rundfunk, studio Karlsruhe, went a step further - he illuminated the professional friendship, however one-sided it may have been, between Schumann and Frédéric Chopin.

The morning that was like an evening - so full of “plenty of euphony” as expressed by Thomas Mann, with so exhaustively wise comments (in the best sense) and chosen texts - this morning was an unique event, not only by this premiere, but also by the traced connotations. Chopin’s Op. 2 was at the beginning: rarely known variations on Mozart’s duet Là ci drem la mano from the opera Don Giovanni, which were glowingly dedicated by the twenty year old Schumann to his teacher and father-like idol Wieck, as Draheim said. The comments, read by the actor Markus Hoffmann clearly and without lofty speech, was comprised of documents and quotes by their contemporaries in the manner of a radio feature. Additionally, Sontraud Speidel presented herself like a Clara Schumann-Wieck of our time, with brilliance and emotions, with virtuosic gestures and delicate interpretation. She masterfully interpreted how the theme is represented and transformed in the variations.

The same in the short character piece Chopin from Schumann’s Carnaval, which is, as Draheim pointed out, “an amazing exact copy of the style”. But even more: this became evident in the two last dedicated works, at first Schumann’s central work Kreisleriana, which is dedicated to Chopin [and also to E. T. A. Hoffmann due to its topic], and second Chopin’s “revenge”, the F Major Ballade, op. 35. Romanticism was rarely heard so clearly as the epoch of style, in which the individual artist established and emancipated himself by leaving the connection with the collectivism of the court. Two kindred souls could be perceived, though they could not have argued more differently. Exactly those differences in the close relation, became evident in Sontraud Speidel’s analytical interpretation, which did not lack, however, emotional warmth.

Finally, after the Nocturne in g minor, op. 15 no. 3, came the premiere: Variations on precicely this Nocturne, which had been published hitherto incompletely and are still remaining a fragment. Draheim discovered the autographs between Berlin and Zwickau with the scientific precision of a detective, and he found that they were written approximately between 1834 and 1836, due to the stylistic proximity to the Carnaval, and the Symphonic Etudes. At the end of the third variation, he added eight bars in the corresponding style. Thrilling. If events like that will not take place any more at the Studio Karlsruhe, that loss would be a shame.

Neue Zeitschrift fuer Musik

Translation: Dr. Jürgen Rodeland, John Nisbet