A fascinating concept album circling around the fragility of artistic sensibilities in German musical and literary romanticism. Two important pieces by Swiss composer Heinz Holliger, who celebrates his 70th birthday on 21 May 2009, both of them inspired by Robert Schumann, are combined with a chamber work by Clara Schumann.
They all intersect in the year 1853, when 20-year-old Johannes Brahms first visited the Schumann couple in D³sseldorf. The initial piece, Clara's three wonderfully melodic Romances for cello and piano, is followed by Holliger's imaginative and multi-faceted homage to Robert's "Romances" in the same scoring. Much to Brahms' approbation they were burnt by Clara in 1893 as she feared her late husband's reputation could suffer if compositions from the onset of his mental illness would be publicised. All that survives is a vivid description by violinist Joseph Joachim.
Holliger takes this verbal account as a starting point for music that subtly meditates upon the double character of love and death, music and silence, romances and cinders. "Gesõnge der Fr³he" first performed in 1988 is scored for choir, orchestra and tape. Schumann's last piano work of the same title from 1853 is superimposed in a most visionary way with texts from the late period of Friedrich H÷lderlin - another romantic genius who fell prey to mental illness.
Personnel: Christoph Richter (violoncello), DÚnes Vßrjon (piano), SWR Vokalensemble, Sinfonieorchester des SWR, Heinz Holliger (conductor)
CD Richter, C./Varjon, D./Ganz, B.