Hyperion Records

Waldszenen, Op 82

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'Schumann: Kinderszenen & Waldszenen; Janáček: On the overgrown path I' (CDA68030)
Schumann: Kinderszenen & Waldszenen; Janáček: On the overgrown path I
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'Hyperion monthly sampler – June 2014' (HYP201406)
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No 1: Eintritt
No 2: Jäger auf der Lauer
No 3: Einsame Blumen
No 4: Verrufene Stelle
No 5: Freundliche Landschaft
No 6: Herberge
No 7: Vogel als Prophet
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No 8: Jagdlied
No 9: Abschied
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Waldszenen, Op 82
Schumann’s Waldszenen (‘Forest scenes’) is a cycle of fragments, written in a matter of days over New Year, 1849; it was his last major cycle for solo piano. The forest that it explores was a subject close to the heart of any self-respecting Romantic, be they writer, poet, artist or musician. Its appeal lay in its contrast: nature at its most beautiful but also an unknowable place. But there’s more to it than that, for it is not simply about ‘nature’ per se but the notion of man’s position within that wilderness, and indeed how engagement with such a thing could in turn affect man’s own view of himself; the external as a means of examining the internal, in other words. Certainly, in Waldszenen this is no objective foray into the woods but a very personal reaction to this imagined landscape; and equally striking is the sense that each piece represents just a shard of a larger experience, an aural snapshot, if you will.

On the whole it is the more bucolic aspect that Schumann explores, though these pieces are not without darker shadows. And while they may be technically fairly straightforward, their changeability calls for the quickest of reactions and a wealth of subtle nuance.

All seems well in the first number (Eintritt, ‘Entry’), its gently murmuring theme welcoming us into the forest in the most benign manner possible. The energetic Jäger auf der Lauer (‘Hunters on the lookout’), horn calls aplenty, gives the lie to the idea that Schumann—beset by personal demons by this point in his life—had lost his compositional way, and there’s a delightful mock-seriosity to the throwaway ending. The mood switches again in the next two pieces, Einsame Blumen (‘Lonely flowers’) and Verrufene Stelle (‘Place of evil fame’), tinged in turn by sadness and then a persistent unease that is only banished by the rollicking Freundliche Landschaft (‘Friendly landscape’), which is followed by a study in consolation and reassurance, Herberge (‘Shelter’). With No 7, the famous Vogel als Prophet (‘Bird as prophet’), Schumann seems to reach almost proto-Impressionistic realms, its central chorale-like section lending it an almost sacred gravitas. We return to compositionally safer, more pastoral territory with Jagdlied (‘Hunting song’), which presents an image of the play of horses’ hooves and the jolly red coats of the hunstmen, a notably child-friendly vision. With Abschied (‘Farewell’), the innocence of the opening seems to be regained as we bid the forest a poignant farewell.

from notes by Harriet Smith © 2014

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