Schumann invitation HMM902509

An Invitation at the Schumanns’
Trio Dichter
Samuel Hasselhorn (baritone)
Jorge González Buajasan (piano)
rec. 2022, Cité de la Musique, Philharmonie de Paris
Song texts with English and French translations enclosed
Reviewed as download from press preview
Harmonia Mundi HMM902509 [80]

Welcome home to Clara and Robert Schumann on an afternoon in the mid-nineteenth century. Some musical friends have gathered in their living-room and we are invited to ‘share their thoughts about the music that touched and inspired them’. This reconstruction of an imagined get-together has the distinct stamp of authenticity, insofar as the instruments are true to the period: centre stage in the room is a Bösendorfer grand piano from the 1890s, the cello is a Guarneri from 1734 and the violin by Alessandro Gagliano is even older; both are played on gut strings. These three instrumentalists form the Trio Dichter, but they appear here in various other combinations and pianist Fiona Mato plays in every piece in this programme. 

The programme begin with a soft and beautiful tribute to the hostess of the evening, Clara Schumann. Her Andante molto for violin and piano sets the tone for what will follow. Her husband Robert follows this with one of the most beautiful songs from Myrthen: Widmung, delicately and beautifully sung by Samuel Hasselhorn, in nuanced fashion. Initially, I thought that the piano was too closely balanced, but I quickly adjusted to that. Clara returns  with a likewise beautiful Notturno, before it is time for the major work of the evening, Robert Schumann’s second Piano Trio, composed in 1847. The first movement is marked Sehr lebhaft (very lively), and with no metronome instructions it is up to the players to decide how lively ‘very’ is. Compared with some other recordings, including the Kungsbacka Trio and the classic Beaux Art Trio, it seems they largely agree with the Trio Dichter, and that also goes for the last movement, Nicht zu rasch (Not too fast), as they differ by only a couple of seconds. The inner movements are more crucial; Mit innigem Ausdruck (With inward expression) says nothing about tempo and the Trio Dichter takes almost a minute more than the Beaux Art – not that I mind more feeling. I am more worried about the leisurely speed in the third movement, where the waltz-like rhythm sounds stiff compared to the others. Overall, there is also a subdued atmosphere over the playing, but the reason for that probably resides in the gut strings and the generally somewhat soft edged feeling, which is in tune with the relaxed sense of the programme, in which melodious beauty and intimacy are prioritised. The playing as such cannot be criticized. 

After the extensive, but basically intimate, piano trio we return to miniature format, with the first piece from Kinderszenen. Everybody knows No. 7 Träumerei, but Von fremden Ländern und Menschen  is very beautiful too, and here it is played in an arrangement for piano trio. The piano part is still central while the strings function as a decorative background tapestry. The cello is featured in the first piece from 5 Stücke im Volkston Op. 102, titled Mit Humor. Powerful and, yes, humorous, it is a welcome contrast to the prevailing low-key mood, and a contrast is also Bach’s little Prelude in E-minor. Why Bach in this mid-19th century surrounding? Simply because the Schumanns often played Bach’s preludes and fugues together and were influenced by them. The presence of Danish Niels Gade is easier to understand. Mendelssohn, a close friend of the Schumanns, had premiered Gade’s first symphony and, deeply impressed by his talent, made him his assistant conductor in Leipzig and introduced him to Robert and Clara. He is here represented by a beautiful Elegie, arranged for violin and piano. Next comes the youngster in this company, Johannes Brahms, who had begun to make his mark in his late teens and been placed under the protection of Clara and Robert. Schwesterlein from Deutsche Volkslieder is presented here by Samuel Hasselhorn, energetic, enthusiastic and fast in the first two stanzas, but then slow, soft and inward. Robert’s 5 Stücke im Volkston gets another outing, this time in my personal favourite, Langsam. Here the cello sings softly and warmly. 

Mendelssohn, already mentioned in passing, is of course present in this company, and he presents the only really virtuosic number in this programme, Andante & Allegro assai vivace for piano four-hands. The second piano-part is here taken by Jorge González Buajasan. This a major piece with a playing time of a little over ten minutes. The opening Andante is mild and beautiful, but then they gear up and the piece becomes a real tour de force with spellbinding fireworks. I can imagine that the Schumanns’ children, must have been brutally awakened – but they would soon have been rocked back to sleep by the next number, Theodor Kirchner’s Lied ohne Worte. Kirchner was another protégé of Mendelssohn and Schumann. He was an enormously prolific composer; his piano oeuvre alone encompasses almost one thousand opus numbers. His friendship with Clara continued long after Robert’s death, and there are rumours that he even became her lover. 

From here on, the programme winds down in a diminuendo. Schumann’s beautiful Meine Rose is exquisitely sung pianissimo, Scarlatti’s soft Sonata in G-minor precedes Brahms’ well-known Wiegenlied, so soft, nearly whispered, and the final piece from Kinderszenen: Der Dichter spricht –  again with piano trio – breathes softly, with long pauses between the phrases. It is late evening and the music ebbs away into total silence. The children are deeply asleep, and the guests tiptoe out through the entrance hall, pick up their coats and disappear in the chilly night. The soirée is over and everybody, including this reviewer, is satisfied and longing for the next gathering at the Schumanns. 

This is a delightful easy-listening programme with a couple of more substantial morsels to return to many times or to dip into for individual favourites. 

Göran Forsling

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CLARA SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Andante molto (extr. 3 Romances Op.22, No. 1) 3’03
Widmung (extr. Myrthen Op.25, No. 1)  2’14
Notturno (extr. Soirées musicales Op.6, No.2) 5’31
Piano Trio No.2 in F major Op.80 Fa majeur / F-Dur
Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (extr. Kinderszenen Op. 15, No. 1) * 2’17
Mit Humor (extr. 5 Stücke im Volkston Op. 102, No. 1)  3’14
Little Prelude in E minor BWV 938 (extr. 6 Kleine Präludien BWV 933-938) 2’11
NIELS GADE (1817-1890)
Elegie (extr. Akvareller Op. 19, Book 1, No. 1) **1’49
Schwesterlein (extr. 49 Deutsche Volkslieder WoO 33, Book 3, No. 1) 2’28
Langsam (extr. 5 Stücke im Volkston Op. 102, No.2) 3’22
Andante & Allegro assai vivace Op.92 10’29
Lied ohne Worte (extr. Bunte Blätter Op.83, Book 1, No.6) 2’13
Meine Rose (extr. 6 Gedichte von N. Lenau und Requiem Op.90, No.2) 3’25
Sonata in G minor K. deest Sol mineur / g-Moll  3’40
Wiegenlied (extr. 5 Lieder Op.49, No.4) 1’53
Der Dichter spricht (extr. Kinderszenen Op. 15, No. 13)*  2’45

* arrangement for violin, cello and piano
** arrangement for violin and piano