Monday, June 7, 2010

The Spotify Schumann Bicentennial Playlist

"Today it is more important for me to present material from a number of different aspects, to derive new properties from it, than to compose closed forms. To choose a historical example: Schumann, rather than Brahms." - Wolfgang Rihm

Robert Schumann was born 200 years ago tomorrow, he is the composer I love the most. Lieder like Du bist wie eine Blume is so hauntingly beautiful that it hurts, the tormented cello concerto is heartfelt romantic and deeply tragic at the same time, and no other composer writes piano music like Schumann. Chopin is the greatest dreamer in music, he brought the world most wonderful nocturnes, and preludes that lead to the beginning of nothing: they end before the beginning of the end even starts. Schumann is the most poetic daydreamer, only people who dream in daydreams can ever compose pieces with such an dreamy aura like Träumerei.

This playlist is my tribute to this great composer, and I hope it helps other Spotify users to explore Schumann's music. It consists of four parts:

1, The works with opus numbers. Schumann wrote almost exclusively for solo piano at the beginning, composed over one hundred lieder in his "year of songs"(1840), and many of his chamber music in 1842. So this part is quite easy to be divided into separate genres if you want to. This part is sorted by opus numbers. I tried to choose the best recording for the works that I'm familiar with, for the piano music alone we have Arrau, Anda, Kempff, Richter, and many other maestros. What a feast!

2, The works without opus number, alternative editions and arrangements. This including the violin concerto, some early fragments for piano and orchestra, the unfinished ”Zwickau" symphony, the cello concerto arranged for violin and re-orchestrated by Shostakovich, Carnaval orchestrated by Ravel, and Paganini's 24 Caprices for Violin with Schumann's piano accompaniment. According to the Cambridge Companion To Schumann,  it is the last works that Schumann finished in the asylum. The Concerto Without Orchestra played by Horowitz is majestic.

3, Historical performances. I only chose one modern recording for each composition, but there are some elder recordings that must be heard by true Schumann lovers too. This includes the 1951 live recording of the piano concerto from Cortot and Fricsay, the Frauenliebe sung by Elly Ameling, and a very rare Dichterliebe with Horowitz as accompanist.

4, Modern works that associated with Schumann: Wolfgang Rihm's piano trio Fremde Szenen, Kurtag's Hommage À R. Sch, Peter Ruzicka's Vier Fragmente über Schumann, Heinz Holliger's Gesänge Der Frühe and Romancendres, a "reconstruction" of Schumann's Cello Romances destroyed by Clara, and a suite of Luigi Nono's Prometeo, in which the beginning of Schumann's Manfred is quoted nine times.

In the end of the playlist I put the recording of four songs that were in the original version of Dichterliebe but later excluded. I can hardly think of a better closing track other than Mein Wagen rollet langsam.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Robert Schumann: Bicentennial Edition (1057 tracks, 2 days) Happy 200th Birthday Robert, may your songs always be sung.

If you want a quick introduction to Schumann's works, check out this 2-CD set by Deutsche Grammophon on Spotify: Schumann Gold

And here's an very interesting documentary on Youtube, Schumann's Lost Romance presented by Steven Isserlis:


  1. The Schumann Doodle:

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