Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata No. 2 in f,
op. 14 (second version, 1853).
Concert Studies on Paganini Caprices,
Concert Etudes on Paganini Caprices,
Mi-Joo Lee (pn)
MDG 6040941 (70:12)
Mi-Joo Lee is a young artist who has taught in Berlin at the College of the Arts since 1990, and has served on many competition juries as well as winning prestigious
prizes herself like the Queen Elisabeth in Brussels and the International Music Competition of Japan in Tokyo. Listening to this convincing album of Schumann works composed around 1832–40 makes a believer out of me, offering works not always paraded before the general public.
The tortured history of Schumann’s Piano Sonata in F Minor is one that almost defies description. Suffice it to say that it was brought into life as a “concerto without orchestra” before being published in 1836, his second sequenced sonata though actually the third conceived, but probably started before any of the others. After many preliminary revisions it was finally sent to print, though it was to undergo many other transformations before the composer issued a “final” version before his death in 1856. The original version consisted of the opening
, “Clara” variations 1, 4, 3, and 6, followed by a completely rewritten finale. When planning the second edition he added the originally intended first scherzo after the first movement, and meant to restore the work entirely, which meant adding the second scherzo (following directly after the first) and the missing variations 2 and 5. This recording purports to be the first to record Schumann’s final thoughts.
It does work, making this thorny piece fuller and more majestic, though also quirky in the way that many of the late Beethoven quartets are quirky. Traditional movement names are given though used out of order, and expectations are continually confounded. The Clara variations movement, now restored to its pristine theme plus six, is devastating, funereally somber and fully reflective of what Schumann called composing “unhappily and melancholily.” These new thoughts are worth exploring by anyone who loves this composer, and Lee’s elegant brand of controlled passion sets the stage for some wonderful listening.
In 1830 Schumann had his first experience of Paganini live, and it totally electrified him, as it did so many others. These two sets of variations were written for Clara (who performed them rarely and then only as selections), the first serving as a warm-up for the technically feisty op. 10. Schumann considered the former useful as technical devices, but the second set is in a totally different category, fully formed miniatures of brilliance and great evocative power. Again Lee states her case forcefully, turning in the most adept and controlled examples of this music I have heard. Easily recommended then for sterling playing, great sound, and formidable interpretative ideas.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Piano no 3 in F minor, Op. 14 "Concert sans orchestre" by Robert Schumann
Lee Mee Chou (Piano)
Written: 1835-1836; Germany
Date of Recording: 04/1998
Venue: Princely Riding School, Arolsen, Germany
Length: 32 Minutes 34 Secs.
Notes: Ver: 1853, with the addition of a second scherzo and two previously-omitted variations.
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