The Art of Ruth Slenczynska V

The Works

Bunsho Mifune

The encounter of Clara Schumann (1819~96) , Robert Schumann (1810~56) and Brahms (1833~97) was a very important incident in the music history. Without knowing Clara, Schumann and Brahms’ works would probably have been quite different. For the two composers, Clara was the goddess of inspiration and the sharer of their genius. Clara Schumann started her musical career as a child prodigy. In her teens, she was deemed as equal to the male pianists at her time such as Liszt, Thalberg and Henselt, and she was also respected by composers such as Mendelssohn and Chopin. She was not only a star performer who had owned a illustrious concert career well over 60 years, but also a renowned teacher, successful editor, and the first female composer ever recognized.
However, her life was constantly filled with sorrow and trouble.
When she was five, her parents divorced. Her domineering father, who was a piano teacher, educated her to be a child prodigy, so she had no chance to lead a normal childhood.Her romance with Robert Schumann and the first few years of their marriage were the most happy days of her life (yet the marriage was won after a lawsuit against her father), but after fourteen years of marriage, Schumann became mentally ill and attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Rhine River. Two years later, he died in an asylum at the age of forty-six. In order to raise her seven children (and later plus six grandchildren), Clara held more than sixty concerts a year all around Europe for the following decades, but ironically these tours forced her to live apart from her children, unable to afford them a warm environment that they needed. Her three sons were all ill, which tormented Clara mentally and financially for a long time. Clara herself was also plagued by illness. In her later years, she suffered from rheumatism and defective hearing, which was especially unbearable to her.
During her troublesome life, her main spiritual support was perhaps her friendship with Brahms. Brahms met Robert and Clara Schumann when he was twenty in September 3rd, 1853, through the introduction of the violinist Joachim. Since that day, he remained a truthful and respectful friend of Clara Schumann for the following forty-three years (In his later years, Brahms wrote to Clara in a letter on their relationship: “the forty years of faithful service to you”). This was perhaps the most beautiful friendship in the music history, and their relationship inspired Brahms to write his numerous masterpieces.

Robert Schumann
Romance in F sharp major 3 Romances, op. 28 No. 2
“Widmung” (arr. Liszt)
~from “Myrten” op. 25 No. 1

In August 1837, Clara married Schumann despite her father’s strong objection, and started a three-year-long battle with her father. After returning to Leipzig with her father from a successful concert tour in Vienna that lasted from October 1837 to May 1838, Clara, then aged eighteen, decided to marry Robert Schumann. In order to break new ground, and in the hope that Clara’s father might give consent to their marriage outside Leipzig, Clara persuaded Schumann to go to Vienna by himself.
In January 1839, Clara also decided to leave her father and went to Paris for a concert tour on her own for the first time in her life. Compared to Clara’s success in Paris, Robert Schumann didn’t have a chance to demonstrate his talent in Vienna under the reign of Metternich. In April 1839, Schumann left Vienna and went back home. “3 Romances op. 28″ was written in this period and was the last of the series of piano works he had written since 1837. (He had not written piano works since then until 1845.)
The lawsuit over the marriage, which began in December 1839, was finally won in July 1840 by the young couple against Clara’s father, and the concert in Weimer held on September 5th was the last one in which Clara performed with her maiden name―on September 12th, the day before Clara’s 21st birthday, she was married and became Clara Schumann.
On the eve of their wedding, Clara received the most wonderful present that a groom could ever give to her bride: a collection of songs wrapped in myrtle leaves, with the dedication―”for my beloved bride.” This collection of twenty-six songs were later published as “Myrten,” and the first song “Widmung” was arranged into a elaborated piano piece in 1848 by Liszt, whom they still befriended at that time.
Schumann never expected that this marriage was the start of their stormy lives, and the two pieces “Romance op. 28-2” and “Widmung” seemed to be written out of his unlimited love and care for his fiance´, Clara. Fifty-six years later, in May 1896, Schumann’s grandson Ferdinand played this “Romance in F sharp major” for Clara, who had been sick in bed for a long time. This was the last music she ever heard in her life. A few days later, at 4:21 in the afternoon of May 20th , Clara Schumann finished her troublesome yet fruitful life at the age of seventy-seven.

Waltzes op. 39
Hungarian Dances No. 1, No. 7

Brahms’ symphonies and chamber music (and perhaps his bearded portrait) often give the impression of grave and solemn German style, but the following facts may be surprising for those who hold such a view towards him : Brahms had actually resided in Vienna ever since 29; he befriended Johann Strauss and was a big fan of his waltz music; even after death, the two great composers’ tombs were situated side by side. Besides, the biggest income throughout Brahms’ life was the two volumes of Hungarian Dances which he had arranged from the Hungarian folk songs. In 1889, when a representative of Edison asked him to record some music with phonograph, he played the first Hungarian dance and a few waltzes.
Brahms had never left the slums of Hamburg until he was twenty, and it’s an essential key for understanding Brahms’ music that he always had a strong yearning for the Bohemian or Viennese temperaments since his youthful days.
In the early days of the 19th century, people who wanted to emigrate to America gathered from all over Europe to Hamburg, the largest port in North Europe. Brahms started playing piano in bars to earn money at thirteen, and it was natural that he learnt gypseian music from the Hungarians who were the majority of the emigrants.
When he was twenty, he went on a concert tour with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reme´nyi as an accompanist. This was the biggest turning point in his life. During their travel, Brahms not only learnt many Hungarian folk songs from Reme´nyi, but also met Reme´nyi’s fellow countryman, a young and popular violinist named Joachim, who introduced Brahms to Clara and Robert Schumann.
In 1869, Brahms edited and published two volumes of “Hungarian dances” (five pieces in each) for piano four hands. The popularity of these pieces made him famous all over Europe. Reme´nyi, who was envious of his success, sued Brahms as violating the copyright. Brahms won the case, since he didn’t number the works in the first place, and treated them as arrangements. Later he also published volume 3 and 4 (a total of 21 pieces) which contained his own original works, but they were not as popular as the first two volumes. By the way, the solo and duet of “Hungarian dances” were both premiered by Clara Schumann.
On the other hand, the Brahms family seemed to love the frank and happy Austrian temperament, and when Brahms was conducting a ladies’ choir during 1859~61 in Hamburg, he met a Viennese girl named Bertha Porubszky, which was his first encounter with the so-called Viennese temperament. He enjoyed listening to her singing Austrian folk songs, and he started to yearn for going to Vienna. In 1862, he left the indifferent hometown, and moved to Vienna.
In Vienna, Brahms became successful as a pianist, and met a lot of famous musicians. To express his gratitude towards the city, he wrote 16 pieces of waltzes for piano duet in the winter of 1865.
These works were not as gloomy as most of Brahms’ works, and as he described each work as “A small waltz in the style of Schubert” or “Written with the image of Vienna and the beautiful Viennese girls in mind,” every piece is bright and gentle. No. 15 is the most popular piece among them, and is also called “Brahms’ Waltz.”

Three Intermezzi op. 117

As a piano virtuoso, Brahms didn’t leave too many piano works. The three piano sonatas were all written when he was about twenty-three, and during the following ten years he only wrote variations or arrangements for piano. He didn’t write further formal piano works until twenty years later, when he was fifty-nine. Of course, in the numerous chamber music and songs he had written, piano was always the central part of the composition, but during this period, perhaps the form of piano solo was simply not enough to transmit his gushing inspiration and creative power.
From 1885 (aged 58) to 1888, he had written the masterpieces including: the Fourth Symphony, Cello Sonata No. 2, Violin Sonata No. 2 and No. 3. After finishing String Quintet No. 2 in 1890, Brahms became aware of the decaying of his own creativity, and he even drew a will in 1891. However, in the same year he was greatly impressed by the performance of the clarinetist Richard Mu¨hlfeld, and with refreshed creativity composed two masterpieces: Clarinet Trio and Clarinet Quintet.
In the summer of 1892, he wrote twenty piano pieces (op. 116~119) in Ischl, where he stayed until the previous year before he died. In this year, his best friend Elizabeth von Herzogenberg and his sister Elise both died. Brahms, who remained single, must have felt the extreme loneliness towards the end of his life.
On the other hand, the discord between him and Clara Schumann in 1891 over the re-edition of Schumann’s Symphony in D minor was resolved this year due to Brahms’ concession; the two friends restore their friendship, maintaining a peaceful and warm relationship in their final years.
These changes in his relationships had perhaps contributed to the composition of these precious piano pieces.
These works reveal a clear and calm state of mind which Brahms had reached through his wisdom towards life. The notes are simple and delicate, while the techniques more refined. They represent the final goal of musical Romanticism, in which the search for inner emotions is combined with poems and literature.
The term “Intermezzo” was first used by Schumann to refer to romantic, fantastic and somehow moody music pieces. The 19th century German Romantic composers liked to use “Intermezzo” as titles when it was difficult to define the feelings in the works with words. Brahms also named some of the most fantastic pieces in the twenty piano pieces as “Intermezzo.”
The first piece of “Three Intermezzi for piano, op. 117” cites the words from the poet Herder’s folksong: “Sleep softly, my child, sleep softly and fine! It grieves me a lot to see you cry.” Brahms called this work as “lullabies of my sorrows.”
Clara Schumann learnt the existence of this collection in October 1892, and played them occasionally until the last year of her life.

Clara Schumann
~from “4 pieces fugitives” op. 15 No. 1

When Clara married the composer Schumann, she decided to dedicate her life to her husband’s music. However, Schumann felt it a pity that his wife, who were known as a composer since her teens (Clara published “Four Polonaises” when she was eleven), was occupied with house chores and could not concentrate on composing. “She can only compose music intermittently, and it makes me sad to think that so many beautiful musical ideas were lost for that.”
“Larghetto” was written after the birth of Clara’s first daughter, during the happiest period of her life from 1840 to 1844, and was dedicated to her step-sister who was thirteen years younger and was also starting her career as a pianist.

~from Piano Sonata No. 1 op. 34 the 4th movement

Weber (1786~1826) established the foundation of German Romantic Opera with his works like “Der Freischu¨tz” and “Oberon.” He wrote his first opera when he was thirteen, and at the same time started to play piano on stage, showing great talents at an early stage of life just like Mozart (the two were also related by the fact that Weber’s cousin was Mozart’s wife.)
“Rondo” was composed in 1812 when Weber was twenty-six. He made a concert tour to Weimar this year and wrote this work for the duke’s daughter who was gifted in piano. He then went back to write the previous movements, completing his Sonata No. 1.
This work with “perpetual motion” and exuberant tones was very popular in 19th century. Brahms had also arranged this piece in 1852.

The Art of Ruth Slenczynska V

20世紀最後の巨匠 ルース・スレンチェンスカ
Nov.12th and 15th, 2007 Liu Mifune Art Ensemble
Grotrian Steinweg (1877, No.3306) in Lie Mifune Art Ensemble
Ruth Slenczynska (Piano)

2007年、数奇な運命を経て、日本で新しい命を与えられたクララ・シューマン愛用のグロトリアン・スタインヴェッグ(No.3306 1877年製)からルース・スレンチェンスカが呼び寄せたクララ、ロベルト・シューマンとヨハネス・ブラームスの魂の声がここに。2005年の驚異のラスト・コンサートから2年、82歳の幻の巨匠ルース・スレンチェンスカが極めたピアニズムの豊饒な楽園。

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