Alexander Lonquich in Rome at Parco della Musica. Schumann recital op.4,12,WoO31and op. 6.
A long time has passed since the sixteen year old Alexander Lonquich won first prize at the Casagrande Competition . I remember him being taken under the wing of Nikita Magaloff and Sandor Vegh and now he returns almost forty years later as the great artist he has matured into, giving an all Schumann Recital in the great hall of Renzo Piano’s magnificent concert halls in Rome .
Such a refined and intriguing a choice, as befits the real thinking musician that he is today, including two rarely heard works :the Intermezzi op.4 and The Studies in the Form of Variations on a theme by Beethoven(the second movement of the seventh symphony).The later only fairly recently came to light in 1974 having been in private hands since its origin in 1833.
These two works as preludes to the masterpieces that we know so well: Phantasiestucke op12 and the Davidsbundler op 6.
Wonderful sounds all at the service of the music where one was never aware for a minute of the supreme technical and musical feats that were being performed by this master musician. Such was the concentration and total self identity with the sound world of Schumann that we were taken on a magical trip to the wonder world of Florestan and Eusebius .
The world that Schumann inhabited and that was eventually to send him in to a mental institution .
Such is the concentration though in these series of short pieces that in order to get their message across one has to stand back and in a sense almost use a classical style to allow the message that is so much integral part of the composition to speak for itself in a simple and beautiful way.
So a whole recital of Schumann in the hands of someone like Lonquich who obviously loves it so much can be overpowering . A bit like being almost smothered by love .
So much so that one cannot sometimes see the wood for the trees.
It was a fantastic recital but I just felt I would have preferred some parts to be allowed to speak for themselves in a simple way – the words are enough without any emphasis or underlining and without constant caressing and passionate embraces.
As Schnabel famously said about Mozart :too easy for children and too difficult for adults.
One just has to listen to the masterly recording of Davidsbundler by Gieseking to hear such simple restraint allied to such sense of colour that the whole architecture of this series of little pieces becomes a completely satisfying whole. So difficult to attain especially when a whole recital consists of almost 30 or so little pieces.
Geza Anda whose modern day playing of Davidsbundler was a classic example programmed them in his last recital in London , as a dying man ,with Mozart D major Sonata and Beethoven op 110.
Fou Ts’ong I am very proud to say learnt them especially for me but he too loved them so much that he was not able to show us the complete form but so many wonderful small nuances as there were today .
A very difficult path to tread in this day of complete performances but I note that another much loved artist Andras Schiff is playing today in London the Davidsbundler coupled with Bach,Bartok and Janacek.
Very interesting to hear for the first time the Beethoven variations.
Such transcendentally difficult pieces but played with such a refined sense of colour and complete mastery that one wonders why they are not more often performed .
The Intermezzi op 4 sandwiched as they are between The Abegg Variations op.1,Papillons op.2 and the Davidsbundler op.6 have always been perhaps not totally unjustly overlooked .Such are the masterpieces before and after that this interesting work does pale in such context.
Wonderful opening to the Phantasiestucke – Des Abends played with such a refined control of sound it could almost have been a human voice .
In fact after these masterly performances we were offered one of the pieces from the Album for the Young – Winterszeit n.2 and what a revolutionary piece this is hidden away in this little box of jewels.
Standing ovation and insistence from a unjustly poorly attended recital was rewarded by the famous Arabesque op 18 with such decisive contrast between the beautiful recurring melody of Eusebius and the outbursts of Florestan (maybe rather over exaggerated here ).The wonderful ending somewhat reminiscent of Dichterliebe sent us out into the cold winters night with our hearts full of the message of love that we had been privileged to share with Maestro Lonquich .