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Thread: Robert Schumann - great composer??

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artemis View Post
    The OP almost sent me into a state of shock-horror.

    I love Schumann. I have all of his works and I rate him along with Brahms somewhere in the middle of my group of top 10 composers.

    His piano solo works are mainly embodied in his Ops 1-28. Upon these works he concentrated his composition energies during the first ten years of his composing life. They contain some real treasures. They’re all fantastic in my opinion but I especially like Fantasie, Etudes Symphoniques, Carnaval, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana. These works are among his best works of any description, and rate highly in the general piano repertoire.

    .
    I feel largely the same way but wouldn’t try to convince other people. It is hard to argue about tastes, de gustibus non est disputandum; unlike most of commonplaces this one is true. I assume most of us tend to think that his estimates of musical greatness is the true, the objective one. But in fact it is hard to analyse greatness, let alone to prove it. Musicologists do analyse the complexity of compositions but complexity is not synonymous with greatness. One of Bach’s sons argued that his father was greater than Händel because he had written up to six-voice fugues; if if this would be the criterion, some 17th century composers would be even greater than Bach...

    I also have on disc all of Schumann’s instrumental output and a fair amount of his vocal works but this doesn’t mean that I like all that. I like very much many of his works for solo piano – being especially fond of Fantasy in C, Kreisleriana, Davidsbündlertänze, 6 Intermezzi Op. 4, Etudes Symphoniques, both Phantasiestücke, Gesänge der Frühe, Sonata in f sharp, Bunte Blätter - plus Eden & Peri, but I find boring almost all of his symphonic and chamber music (not for their orchestration), not to mention his vocal music, with pitifully few exceptions. As for Brahms, it is the other way round. I like his solo piano works but I can find in them neither the forceful, overwhelming inventiveness, nor the exuberant and colorful richness of Schumann’s solo piano works. Brahms achieved all that in chamber music, symphonies and concertos.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Argus View Post
    Don't worry I'm not getting wound up at all. I'm just the kind of person who enjoys a healthy debate and the more difficult an opinion to support just makes for a more interesting challenge. I just pounced on your ascertation that a particular statement was ridiculous, which to me, seemed about as sensible a comparison as possible.

    I fail to see how you construed my words into some kind of personal attack. I was only throwing out possible reasons to support your position.

    It's not that Schumann is less original, more that I can't see any reason why someone would listen to Schumann before Brahms or Schubert. Brahm's Hungarian Dances and Schubert's Symphony 8 and, to lesser extent, Trout Quintet are more famous and more accessible than anything Schumann produced. So, why would a newcomer to all three artists choose to first pursue Schumann, apart from possibly the Piano Concerto in A minor.
    Perhaps they are more accessible works, after all Schumann has never been all that accessible. He takes a refinement of aesthetic sensibility, one which facile listeners don't possess. For those with the need for obvious musical moods and emotions, Schumann's great subtlety is lost completely.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaime77 View Post
    But Schumann wrote nothing as profound as Chopin's Four Ballades or Scherzi. Late Chopin, like Schubert, Beethoven, seems to transcend the medium and reach incredible heights of expression. I don't see that happens in Schumann.
    Utter rubbish.

    Chopin's scherzi and ballades are powerful works, but in no way as profound as Schumann's Kreisleriana or Fantasie. Chopin better exploits the potentialities of the piano than does Schumann, but Schumann reaches greater spiritual depths, akin to late Beethoven (as Liszt himself said). If you haven't heard Horowitz play the Kreisleriana, or someone like Perahia play the Fantasie, you are completely unqualified in judging the greatness of Schumann's keyboard output.

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  5. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaime77 View Post
    Air,

    thank you for returning to my original points - they got a bit lost in the heat of the debate. I hope nobody here took offense or took something personally. I don't think it reflects personally on anyone what their taste is.

    Putting Schumann in the top 10 for piano and top ten for lieder - I would agree with lieder definitely - top 5 of the century for lieder I'd say. I however think that Schubert's lieder are unmatched and Schumann's piano music is no greater or lesser than Chabrier, as mentioned before.
    Also, it is not about one being more accessible. I don't think so. I find Schumann quite accessible. But I also find Offenbach and Rossini accessible but I don't like their music - what I have heard of it. Maybe Schumann's type of romanticism is genuinely unique such that these comparisons are somewhat flawed. It is not like comparing Mozart to Haydn when comparing Brahms and Schumann. It is more like comparing Bach and Monteverdi. Two very different Baroque composers with different agendas and approaches.

    I have Argerich playing Schumann and I also have her playing Chopin. Maybe it is the Polish rhythms or the harmonic inventiveness, or the sheer passion, but Chopin wins hands down. Schumann just sounds light and almost too sweet.
    Schumann is one of the immortals in piano music, an absolute God. Debussy mastered the materials of piano music but not the content (on the whole).
    Your comparison between Schumann on the one hand, and Chabrier and Rossini on the other, show you up to be a complete philistine.

    Argerich is not the best Schumann player. I find her playing heavy handed and unmusical. She does not bring a true romantic sensibility like Horowitz or even Rachmaninov, Friedman, Neuhaus, Richter (for example) to this music...

  6. #35
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    I do agree that Brahms' excelled in chamber works.

    However I find his symphonies not particularly convincing. The 1st for example, which is rarely criticized, goes nowhere emotionally or spiritually. And where it does go means very little.However the 4th is a taut and powerful work, the only one that consistently convinces me.

    On the other hand, all 4 Schumann symphonies are powerful, convincing emotionally, and musically satisfying experiences. His chamber works are unjustly neglected. The 1st piano trio to my mind and ears is finer than anything written by Beethoven in that genre, and possibly the finest trio before Faure.
    Perhaps Jaime is not also a fan of Faure? Because that master's work is also subtle and elusive, and tends to be placed (monstrously unjustifiably) in the 'easy listening' bracket.

    Schumann was a colossal genius, who rocked music out of the stupor of its lethargy. He didn't fulfill all his gifts, partially due to incomplete training, partially due to mental instability. But he towers in the lieder and piano genres, and is one of the most significant voices after Beethoven in chamber, symphonic and choral music, inferior to Brahms in the first aspect but superior in the latter 2.

    To liken the 'Domini' (Brahms' term for Schumann) to Grieg is little short of blasphemy.....
    Last edited by Eusebius12; Mar-22-2010 at 09:32.

  7. #36
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    [QUOTE=Eusebius12;90977]

    Schumann was a colossal genius, who rocked music out of the stupor of its lethargy. He didn't fulfill all his gifts, partially due to incomplete training, partially due to mental instability. But he towers in the lieder and piano genres, and is one of the most significant voices after Beethoven in chamber, symphonic and choral music, inferior to Brahms in the first aspect but superior in the latter 2.

    QUOTE]
    I have to agree. I have his Scenes from Goethe's Faust, and he is hands down a brilliant fellow. If we take his mental instability and lack of training nito consideration, he is probably a top 7 composer of all time. With his mental crises the man was able to produced over 132 published works in all genres whilst, accompanying his wife, and whilst being an editor for a magazine. The only person that shames Schumann in regards to productivity and quality in Schubert. Heck Schubert died at 32 and what he left was amazing.

    I would say that the only thing I don't like from Schumann's output is his set of string quartets.

    His Piano Quintet is probably the greatest written. I recently had Brahms Piano Quintet as the best but I have changed my mind. Schumann brings so much color and contrast that it makes Brahms' seem nothing more than brutal monotony.

  8. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eusebius12 View Post
    I do agree that Brahms' excelled in chamber works.

    However I find his symphonies not particularly convincing. The 1st for example, which is rarely criticized, goes nowhere emotionally or spiritually. And where it does go means very little.However the 4th is a taut and powerful work, the only one that consistently convinces me.
    The first I suppose is meant to go from dark to light. The second seems to me quite a strong piece.

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    I don't have much to add. I like Schumann. I think he was great, but like most things I have to be in the mood for it. I can't listen to him every single day any more than I can listen to Bach every single day. I would like to add the fact that a great deal of people still look upon him with great love and affection, and the fact that he's still being talked about and his works are still being performed 154 years after his death must mean he did something right.

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  11. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by starry View Post
    The first I suppose is meant to go from dark to light. The second seems to me quite a strong piece.
    the first is a copy cat of Beethoven's 5th. Von Bulow called it the 10th.

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    I think that Schumann certainly deserves a place in the higher spheres of composers. Longevity, as well as his influence on others, certainly qualifies him there. But so many arguments here have gone beyond the original question, into arguments of whose favorite composer is better. Whether Schumann was or wasn't better than any number of other composers certainly doesn't diminish him overall. Stratification by who is "better" is so subjective, and there isn't even any agreed upon classification system. Do we judge by volume of works? By diversity of works? By whether they are still performed today? By the number of composers of note that credit them as an inspiration? It all becomes absurd - someone prefers Brahms because of one factor, while someone else prefers Schumann due to another factor.

    I have not been able to get into Schumann's works - I have his symphonies, and some of his piano music played by Horowitz. It just doesn't move me. Granted, I have not fully explored his repertoire, but what I have sampled has not encouraged me to look deeper. That being said, I can still acknowledge that he is a great composer, without having to admit that he was the greatest. For myself, of the early Romantics, I much prefer Schubert. On any given day, I would much rather listen to Brahms, Dvorak, Chopin, or Schubert over Schumann.

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    Dichterliebe is I think one of the more intense 'dude loses mind' pieces. What I really feel in it is how the songs fit together as a cycle; I'd love to hear someone cut off all the endings and play straight through the entire thing with no pauses. It's pretty amazing some of the stuff he pulls off harmonically given the smooth togetherness of the music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScipioAfricanus View Post
    the first is a copy cat of Beethoven's 5th. Von Bulow called it the 10th.
    It's commonly compared to the ninth because of the similar theme in the 4th movement. The fate motive is also used, but that's not why they gave it that nickname.

    And so what? Brahms knew what he was doing and never shied away from the comparisons to the Beethoven symphonies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mueske View Post
    It's commonly compared to the ninth because of the similar theme in the 4th movement. The fate motive is also used, but that's not why they gave it that nickname.

    And so what? Brahms knew what he was doing and never shied away from the comparisons to the Beethoven symphonies.
    of course he knew what he was doing. He knew he was being bastardly unoriginal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScipioAfricanus View Post
    of course he knew what he was doing. He knew he was being bastardly unoriginal.
    For using a similar theme? The symphony still screams 'Brahms!' and is in ideas and overall mood very different from anything Beethoven wrote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mueske View Post
    For using a similar theme? The symphony still screams 'Brahms!' and is in ideas and overall mood very different from anything Beethoven wrote.
    not the same theme necessarily but the same concept of the 5th with the linking of movements.

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