Andreas Staier – Schumann: Variationen & Fantasiestucke (2014) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Andreas Staier – Schumann: Variationen & Fantasiestücke (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz  | Time – 59:42 minutes | 943 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © harmonia mundi

Counting the album of violin sonatas he made with violinist Daniel Sepec, this is the third Schumann release from historical-instrument specialist Andreas Staier. Staier’s recordings of earlier keyboard music had some really surprising sounds, but with Schumann, playing an 1837 Erard, it’s a realm not too far removed from the modern piano: better able to capture the intimate shadings of the Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, perhaps. But, even more so than in previous releases, Staier has come up with a really arresting program this time, and done it full justice. What it is is a sort of arch shape, featuring Schumann’s first published composition, the Abegg Variations, Op. 1, and the last thing he wrote as he descended into insanity, the Variations in E flat major (“Ghost Variations”), along with two sets of Fantasiestücke (the term came from E.T.A. Hoffmann), one early, one late. The Abegg Variations also fare well on Staier’s Erard, and he captures the explosive talent incipient in them as what seems to be a polite variation set morphs into something completely different. But the real find here is Schumann swan song, the Ghost Variations, which were suppressed by Clara Schumann and Brahms and are still rarely performed. Schumann worked on the piece after his suicide attempt, with radically altered handwriting. He declared it finished, but it has a sort of radical simplicity based on the theme that he said had been dictated to him by angels. People haven’t known quite what to make of this, but Staier finds profound things in the work, most of all the dissolution of the theme behind arpeggio “noise” in the last variation, perhaps the composer’s final reflection on what was happening to him. At the very least, it’s worth hearing. Staier is also superb in the later set of Fantasiestücke, Op. 111, which fit well into the general reevaluation of Schumann’s late works. Two intensely chromatic short pieces, the last with some very strange octave-displaced leading tones, surround a slow movement whose outer sections are almost completely static explorations of the resonances of a single harmony. This is a fabulous release that may singlehandedly rewrite the Schumann canon.

Tracklist:
Robert Schuhmann (1810-1856)
01. Abegg-Variationen, Op. 1: Tema. Animato
02. Abegg-Variationen, Op. 1: Var. I
03. Abegg-Variationen, Op. 1: Var. II
04. Abegg-Variationen, Op. 1: Var. III
05. Abegg-Variationen, Op. 1: Cantabile-Non troppo lento
06. Abegg-Variationen, Op. 1: Finale alla Fantasia-Vivace
07. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: I. Des Abends-Sehr innig zu spielen
08. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: II. Aufschwung-Sehr rasch
09. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: III. Warum? Langsam und zart
10. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: IV. Grillen-Mit Humor
11. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: V. In der Nacht-Mit Leidenschaft
12. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: VI. Fabel-Langsam-Schnell
13. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: VII. Traumes Wirren-Äußerst lebhaft
14. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12: VIII. Ende vom Lied-Mit gutem Humor
15. Fantasiestücke, Op. 111: I. Sehr rasch, mit leidenschaftlichem Vortrag
16. Fantasiestücke, Op. 111: II. Ziemlich langsam-Etwas bewegter-Erstes Tempo
17. Fantasiestücke, Op. 111: III. Kräftig und sehr markiert
18. Variations in E Flat Major ‛Ghost Variations’: Tema. Leise, innig
19. Variations in E Flat Major ‛Ghost Variations’: Var. I
20. Variations in E Flat Major ‛Ghost Variations’: Var. II. Canonisch
21. Variations in E Flat Major ‛Ghost Variations’: III. Etwas belebter
22. Variations in E Flat Major ‛Ghost Variations’: Var. IV
23. Variations in E Flat Major ‛Ghost Variations’: Var. V

Personnel:
Andreas Staier, piano

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