I was very pleased to obtain this cd set from Amazon at a very good price. I first heard this Radio 3 and found it interesting and mentally filed it in my 'must revisit again' brain cell. I had previously concluded that Schumann is vastly underrated today. The bonus in having the CD is that you can replay until you are familiar with the structure. If you have not heard it before, give it a go.
I much enjoyed Bernard O’Hanlon’s amusing and erudite review of this CD, and I am forced to agree with much of it. That is, in respect of the Requiem and the Mass: I suspect Robbie (to adopt O’Hanlon’s delightful approach) felt he ought to ‘do’ a Mass and a Requiem, seeing as everyone else had done one; the only trouble is his didn’t come out as well as Haydn’s and Mozart (et al)’s.
However, I take a very alternative position on the Rose Pilgerfahrt. It was for this piece that I downloaded the MP3 format and I remain delighted with it. I would agree that occasionally the hunting horns are wheeled out for a bit of tally-ho, and there are one or two sections which seem more like Mozart’s musical joke, but I cannot agree it is a dense, uninspired thicket. As a piece overall it cannot compare with his better chamber music – ‘Mein Schoner Stern’, ‘Frauen Lieben …’ and the rest - but one ought not to approach it as though it were chamber music. It is much more in the style of the Spring Symphony, and very much in the mould of ‘Genoveva’ (which has quite a few iffy moments as well as sublime) and ‘Das Paradies und die Peri’. I don’t know who influenced whom, but I feel there is a fair bit of Mendelssohn inserting itself there.
It’s a shame Pilgerfahrt has a few clumsy sections in it (possibly more than a few), but if one is selective one can mine a lot of gold out of it. I know it is wrong, sinful and probably criminal not to take a piece and listen to it as a whole, but as I get older I say, ‘what the hell, you’re only young once’, and pick the best bits. And they are fabulous: try ‘Und wie ein Jahr verronen’ (no 23) for example.
A real curate’s egg with some scrummy bits in it, well worth trying at this price. The soloists are by and large wonderful to listen to (one or two iffy moments but I can let those pass), and the digital remastering of this elderly recording is excellent.
Drawing upon Plato and St Anselm, if it can be thought of, it must exist. Accordingly, the Oompa Loompas are real and they must require liturgical music in order to glorify their deity. Schumann obligingly stepped up to the plate with his crackpot Mass - a late work.
"Oompa loompa doompadee doo Gloria in Excelesis Deo I've got a perfect puzzle for you!"
Whatever made Schumann wander so far from the wellsprings of his genius is beyond me. This setting is foursquare, mechanical and insipid. The composer chugs his way through the texts in a way that brings to mind those diminutive makers of confectionery: loud, soft, loud, soft, loud, soft. Nor does he betray any understanding of the Mass. The only inspired movement is the hushed Sanctus - but we return to the Chocolate Factory with the Pleni Sunt Coeli. I fortified myself with Red Bull to traverse this work.
Clara and Brahms were right to save the Requiem in D Flat from the flames. It is more inspired than the Mass; indeed, the opening Requiem Aeternam is deeply moving as if the Schumann himself is pleading for repose. The closing Benedictus / Agnus Dei brings closure. Even so: if this work were to be submitted by a composition-student, the examiners would say "Not bad at all - and it's impressive in parts." But coming from the composer of Kinderszenen & Davidbundlertanze, it is a letdown.
The Pilgrimage of the Rose is a dense, uninspired thicket that warrants its notoriety. The Requiem for Mignon is the best work here - even so, I would not walk over broken glass to hear it. Fischer-Dieskau marrs the performance with his elocution lesson
These works receive the best possible advocacy here. My god they need it