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Schumann: Gesange Der Fruhe; 7 Fughetten; Kreisleriana / Dina Ugorskaja

Schumann / Ugorskaja
Release Date: 01/11/2011 
Label:  Cavi Music   Catalog #: 8553217   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Dina Ugorskaja
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Gesäng der Frühe. 7 Fughetten. Kreisleriana. Geistervariationen Dina Ugorskaja (pn) AVI MUSIC 8553217 (77:25)

The piercing and almost hypnotic eyes of pianist Dina Ugorskaja on the back cover of the booklet betray a perception and intelligence that serves her very well in this recording of three of Schumann’s late, tough pieces, and yet she has the flash and poetic power to give us an equally penetrating reading of Read more Kreisleriana.

This last work, based on Hoffmann’s novel Views on Life by Murr, the Cat, along with a Fragmentary Biography of Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler, Jotted Down on Wastepaper Found by Chance (got to love those long titles), has the hero actually going mad at the end. Schumann found himself enthralled by the possibilities inherent in the rational/irrational aspects of the story, and the music certainly reflects this maddening dichotomy, replete with a variety of forms and a connecting inconsistency that somehow, in the end, makes sense after all. I have been big on Horowitz and (recently) Clara Würtz in this music, but Ugorskaja makes quite a play for my affections here, and definitely moves easily into a very competitive field.

The other works on this disc are very late and from Schumann’s last years when he was trying to forge a different sort of music and even tonality. The Songs from Early Morning is an attempt to forge something out of the aesthetics of Hölderlin’s writings, which had taken a turn towards looking back at earlier models. Schumann did the same, perhaps even an early shot at neoclassicism for the time, using sparse harmonies and very vague tonal references. It’s haunting and beautiful all at once, and definitely a look into the future, something that so intimidated Clara that she never once performed it in public.

The composer fought the idea of fugues for many years, ultimately giving in to them in 1849. But his Seven Piano Pieces in Fughetta Form from just a few days before his Rhenish suicide attempt explores the structure to a remarkable degree, looking back to Bach with a quote from the “Royal” theme in the Musical Offering and presenting us with really unique harmonic constructs and odd voice-leading. It is one of the great mysteries of music to wonder about the path he might have taken had he made it into his 50s.

We don’t really know what caused Schumann’s final breakdown and illness. Could it have been a slow awareness of the relationship that Brahms had forged with his wife, platonic or otherwise? Or maybe the idea of failure in Düsseldorf haunted him—hard to say. But the chaos, real or imaginary, in his head was killing him quickly. At one point in February of 1854 he suddenly got out of bed and wrote down a theme that he said had been dictated by angels to him. The theme of these five variations (which he wrote down in the following days) had been used before in his Violin Concerto. But after he had finished with these “ghosts” he tossed his wedding ring into the Rhine and followed soon after. Clara nixed both publication and performance of this piece, and the first edition is from 1939, though Brahms made a set of four-hand variations (op. 23) on the theme.

Ugorskaja makes a great case for these late works as being every bit as important as Schumann’s earlier piano music. She brings a heightened sensitivity to all her playing coupled with an extraordinary facile ability to convey the complexities of this music in an easily assimilated way. Great piano sound, too, and I can recommend this as one of the top choices for these late works, nicely gathered in one place, with the additional spice of a fully competitive Kreisleriana as well.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

Gesänge der Frühe (5) for Piano, Op. 133 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Dina Ugorskaja (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Germany 
Klavierstücke (7) in the form of Fugues, Op. 126 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Dina Ugorskaja (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Germany 
Kreisleriana, Op. 16 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Dina Ugorskaja (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 
Variations for Piano on an original theme "Geisterthema" by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Dina Ugorskaja (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 

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