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Hyperion Records

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The Flight into Egypt (detail) (1609) by Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)
Track(s) taken from CDA67661
Recording details: June 2008
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: March 2009
Total duration: 15 minutes 23 seconds

'A disc that all Schumann lovers will want to own' (BBC Radio 3 CD Review)

'Could this be his best recording yet? … [Fantasiestucke] has a wonderfully considered and luxuriant aspect; the results never sound contrived. That's partly to do with Isserlis's sound, which has a very focused centre to it, but also his utterly intimate relationship with pianist Dénes Várjon. Perhaps the most ravishing item on the disc is the poignant Abendlied … in his hands it's as moving a wordless Lied as anything you could imagine … for all that Isserlis has made many wonderful recordings, not least his seminal Bach suites, I think this might just be his finest yet' (Gramophone)

'This fabulously virtuosic and psychologically complex work [Violin Sonata] forces Isserlis's musicianship up to a new level … Isserlis masters its explosive flourishes and has the vital impetus to manke an eccentric work feel whole' (BBC Music Magazine)

'This music sings and soars, flying to the instrument's highest reaches with dreamy eloquence and a sense of rightness … he plays with fierceness and soul' (The Observer)

'Enhanced by glowingly intimate sound from Andrew Keener and Simon Eadon, Isserlis constantly draws us in with playing of gentle radiance and exquisite nuancing … [Violin Sonata] sets the seal on one of Isserlis's finest discs' (International Record Review)

'The whole programme is a delight, as both artists catch the music's poetic ebb and flow to perfection' (The Sunday Times)

Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op 102
April 1849

Langsam  [3'37]
Nicht zu rasch  [1'47]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Stücke im Volkston occupy a very different world from any of the other works on this programme; perhaps they proved more challenging to Schumann, since they took him over two weeks to compose—considerably longer than any of the others. Having heard him earlier in dream-fantasy mode, singing songs of love and night, creating a large classical structure, and then looking back to the distant past, we now encounter Schumann writing in a ‘popular’ spirit, in a simpler harmonic and rhythmic style that (to a certain extent) emulates folk music. Perhaps here the effects of the revolution can be heard after all; it is conceivable that Schumann, that most rarefied of beings, was trying to establish his credentials (as in several of his vocal works) as a ‘man of the people’.

The first piece is subtitled ‘vanitas vanitatum’, a favourite saying of Schumann’s; it may owe something to a poem of that name by Goethe, which tells the tale of a drunken, one-legged soldier. The second movement, in F major—Schumann’s happiest or most consoling key—sounds like a lullaby, rocking gently between three- and four-bar phrases. The heart of the work lies in the central third movement, its sparse, tragic accompaniment recalling a song from Dichterliebe: ‘Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet’ (‘In a dream I wept’). The fourth piece is joyous, carefree—even triumphant. But we are not given a happy ending: the finale is positively fierce—a portrait of a monster, perhaps? A good German monster, who will drag off to a grizzly end any child who misbehaves in any way. Quite right.

from notes by Steven Isserlis © 2009

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