ROBERT SCHUMANN, HEINZ HOLLIGER – ASCHENMUSIK / ECM Nes Series 2395 player
Music by and about Robert Schumann: Heinz Holliger’s lifelong fascination with Schumann finds further expression in this new recording. On Aschenmusik, a new interpretation of the Swiss oboist-composer’s Romancendres is framed by Schumann’s own works. Romancendres refers to the lost Cello Romances of 1853 which Clara Schumann burned on Brahms’s advice, an act of destruction which outraged Holliger and fuelled the composition of this “music from the ashes” in 2003. Romancendres, however, is not an attempt to reconstruct a lost Schumann composition. It’s a portrait of Schumann, packed with quotations and allusions which are projected, as Holliger says, like a lifetime passing through the mind of a dying man.
Romancendres is prefaced by Schumann’s Romances for oboe and piano, masterpieces which have been part of Holliger’s repertoire for 60 years, and by the rarely-played Studies in Canonic Form which find Holliger on the oboe d’amore. Heinz Holliger: “The studies are magnificent. To me, Schumann is the only 19th-century composer after Beethoven who succeeded in striking a balance between extreme contrapuntal complexity and romanticism. Not even Brahms managed this with the same ease and naturalness. We always feel that his counterpoint is something constructed, while Schumann was capable of dreaming these incredible constructs. This simultaneity of the unconscious and the highly deliberate is the most inimitable thing about Schumann. And he displays it in these canonic pieces. We don't even notice their rigorous construction. The structural side is extremely thorough, but it remains in the background, hiding from itself.”
The album closes with Schumann’s first sonata for violin and piano, with cello substituting for violin. Holliger: “Schumann himself thought it could also be played on a cello. I find it grandiose with this combination of instruments.” Strong performances by Holliger himself and by Anita Leuzinger, solo cellist from the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, and by Austrian pianist Anton Kernjak make this album another important addition to Heinz Holliger’s ECM discography. The album is issued in time for Holliger’s 75th birthday on May 21st.
Heinz Holliger, one of the great oboists of our time, was born in Langenthal in the Swiss canton of Berne in 1939. He has made authoritative recordings of the standard repertoire (some with ECM, including a benchmark album of Zelenka's trio sonatas) and considerably enlarged the technical range of his instrument. Many leading composers from Luciano Berio to Isang Yun have written works for him. His conducting career began in 1977 with the Basel Chamber Orchestra. Since then he has stood at the head of all the major orchestras, including the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics. He studied composition with Sándor Veress and Pierre Boulez. His recordings for ECM include Scardanelli Cycle, his Robert Walser cycle Beiseit, Lieder ohne Worte, the opera Schneewittchen and the Violin Concerto. An earlier version of Romancendres (recorded in 2008) with Christoph Richter and Dénes Várjon, can be heard on the album of the same name.
Anita Leuzinger was born in 1982 near Zurich. She studied cello with Thomas Grossenbacher and Thomas Demenga. During her studies she received important input from György Kurtág, Miklós Perényi and Steven Isserlis, among others. She was influenced most by the Hungarian pianist Ferenc Rados. In 2008, Leuzinger won first prize at the Naumburg Competition in New York. This led to her debut recital at Carnegie Hall in 2009. At age 23, while still a student, she won the position of principal cellist with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. She works often with Heinz Holliger, and plays regularly in duo with Anton Kernjak.
Anton Kernjak comes from an Austrian family with Slovenian background. He studied at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg and later attended concert classes with Rudolf Buchbinder at the Basel Conservatory. He was greatly influenced by his studies with Ferenc Rados and by master classes with Kurtág. He has received several awards and was a prize winner at the international Johannes Brahms piano competition in Austria. His chamber music partners include Heinz Holliger, Anita Leuzinger, Thomas Demenga, Hanna Weinmeister, Muriel Cantoreggi, Geneviève Strosser and Silvia Simionescu.
CD booklet includes an extensive interview with Heinz Holliger by Claus Spahn, in German and English.