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Reverie in the Afternoon

Piano music - Sontraud Speidel plays in the Emperor’s Hall of Lichtenberg Castle

By Silvia Adler

"Where the words end, the music begins", wrote the Romanticist E. T. A. Hoffmann. This quote from a poet seems to become a program in the well-known “Scenes from Childhood” op. 15 by Robert Schumann. In 13 poems without words, the young composer who desired to become a poet himself, makes audible that which is unspeakable. Sontraud Speidel began her Sunday afternoon’s piano recital in Lichtenberg Castle with this piano suite composed in 1838; the subtitle of the concert was “Robert Schumann and his family”. Almost casually, she sounds the first chords; foregoing intentionally superficial effects, she seems to listen into the music from the start. She penetrates the mystery of the pieces deeper and deeper, and makes Schumann’s memories of childhood, told from the perspective of the adult, become alive with great persuasive power by her sensitive and concise interpretation. With soulfull tenderness of touch and subtly applied delays of chords, she confers an enchantment to the universally known “Träumerei”, that makes one believe that you are listening to the piece for the very first time.

The pianist, who has won international prizes several times, shapes the vehement emphasis of the “Quatre pièces fugitives” op. 15 by Clara Schumann with virtuoso furor and passionate crescendos. Painful inner strife is reflected in the deepest chasms of the soul, in the “Kreisleriana” of Robert Schumann.

In a finale full of power of sound, Sontraud Speidel plays Johannes Brahms’ sonata No. 1 in C major, which combines romantic temperament with a classical stylistic sense. The pianist, who was honored with uproarious applause, thoroughly enjoys the sound-palette of the work, from symphonic luster, to songlike simplicity.

Darmstaedter Echo, March 21, 2006

Translation: Dr. Jürgen Rodeland, John Nisbet