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Schumann: Piano Music

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0134
Release Date: 12/01/2013
Number of Discs: 1
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Faschingsschwank aus Wien
Kinderszenen Op. 15
Études Symphoniques, Op. 13

Leon McCawley, piano

The wonderful Leon McCawley continues his exploration of 19th-century repertoire for SOMM with the piano music of  Robert Schumann.

He begins the disc with the delightful five-movement Faschingsschwank aus Wien (Carnival Scenes from Vienna) which unusually falls in between the structure of a suite and a sonata. The exuberant opening Allegro in triple time begins with a waltz tune alternating with six different episodes, one of which is La Marseillaise.  The fact that it had been banned in Vienna by the Metternich Government as subversive must have appealed to Schumann’s sense of  humour who toys with it, turning the famous march-tune into a waltz! The G minor Romanze  is melancholy, followed in perfect contrast, by an ebullient Scherzino. After it comes a passionate Intermezzo with an arpeggio accompaniment underpinning a surging, song-like melody. The work ends with a triumphant Finale in sonata form, a real pianistic tour-de-force.

Kinderszenen Op. 15 is strongly evocative of the time, during the spring of 1838, when Schumann and his beloved Clara were being forcibly kept apart by Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck. To quote briefly from Malcolm MacDonald’s notes:“‘Scenes from Childhood’ are not pieces for children but poetic evocations of the child’s world, from a nostalgic adult perspective. They are like piercing moments of vision, recollected in tranquillity.”

Études Symphoniques, Op. 13 which Schumann composed in the mid to late 1830s is undoubtedly one of his most important piano compositions. The work had a complicated genesis but it eventually emerged, in 1837, as a work in 12 movements with an extended finale. The movements are in essence variations which explore a range of technical problems and are based on an initial theme which Schumann borrowed from the amateur flautist Baron von Friecken. Originally Schumann wrote six more variations but decided to withdraw them. Five of these “extra” variations were salvaged by Brahms and published as a supplement in 1873. They are some of his most beautiful, tender and imaginative music and to SOMM, it would have been inconceivable to leave them out.

Leon McCawley explains in the accompanying booklet why he chose to intersperse the five Variations into the 12 Études in a certain running order – a decision which he considers both instinctive and structural. For him they are “the missing jigsaw pieces that fit into this Schumannesque puzzle  by either providing a welcome contrast to the power and virtuosity of some of the Études or adding more energy into the mix.”

Please note: the recording took place in May 2013 and not 2012, as printed in the CD booklet information.

(Chopin Piano Music SOMMCD 0103)
Here is one of the most beautiful performances of Chopin’s piano music I have encountered. It is absolutely perfect.”  The Glasgow Sunday Herald.

(Brahms Piano Music SOMMCD 0116)
It is difficult to know whether McCawley’s refined piano playing, his natural yet cultivated musicality or his boundless imagination warrant the greater praise. You must hear the recording, but be warned: you may never want to hear another pianist play Op. 118.”  International Record Review

(Barber – the Solo Piano Music SOMMCD 0108)
Leon McCawley’s reading of Barber’s solo piano works is a superb collection, admirably and intelligently delivered. McCawley delivers everything magnificently. This is now the CD to get of Barber’s piano music.” Peter Dickinson, Critics’ Choice 2011, Gramophone.

Leon McCawley leapt into prominence when he won both First Prize in the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and Second Prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition at the age of nineteen in 1993.

Since then, McCawley has given highly acclaimed recitals that include London’s major concert halls, Berlin Konzerthaus, Lincoln Center New York, Prague Rudolfinum and Vienna Musikverein.  He performs frequently with many of the top British orchestras and has performed several times at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. He broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 in recital and with many of the BBC orchestras. Further afield he has performed with Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Vienna Symphony among many others. Conductors he has worked with include Daniele Gatti, Paavo Järvi,  Kurt Masur and Simon Rattle.

McCawley’s wide-ranging discography has received many accolades including two “Editor’s Choice” awards in Gramophone and a Diapason d’Or for his boxed set of the Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas and more recently, a Gramophone Critic’s Choice 2011 for his recording of Barber Piano Music for SOMM.

McCawley studied at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester with Heather Slade-Lipkin and at the Curtis Institute of Music with Eleanor Sokoloff. He also worked with Nina Milkina in London

Leon McCawley is a professor of piano at London’s Royal College of Music.

On This Recording

  1. Faschingsschwank aus Wien: I. Allegro: Sehr lebhaft
  2. Faschingsschwank aus Wien: II. Romanze
  3. Faschingsschwank aus Wien: III. Scherzino
  4. Faschingsschwank aus Wien: IV. Intermezzo
  5. Faschingsschwank aus Wien: V. Finale
  6. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 1. Von fremden Landern und Menschen (Of Foreign Lands and People)
  7. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 2. Curiose Geschichte (A Strange Story)
  8. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 3. Hasche-Mann (Catch-as-catch-can)
  9. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 4. Bittendes Kind (Pleading Child)
  10. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 5. Gluckes genug (Happy Enough)
  11. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 6. Wichtige Begebenheit (An Important Event)
  12. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 7. Traumerei (Dreaming)
  13. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 8. Am Camin (By the Fire-side)
  14. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 9. Ritter vom Steckenpferd (Knight of the Hobby-horse)
  15. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 10. Fast zu ernst (Almost Too Serious)
  16. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 11. Furchtenmachen (Frightening)
  17. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 12. Kind im Einschlummern (Child Falling Asleep)
  18. Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood): No. 13. Der Dichter spricht (The Poet Speaks)
  19. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Thema: Andante
  20. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 1: Un poco più vivo
  21. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Variation 3
  22. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 2: Espressivo
  23. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 3: Vivace
  24. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 4
  25. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 5: Scherzando
  26. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Variation 4
  27. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 6: Agitato
  28. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 7: Allegro molto
  29. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Variation 2
  30. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Variation 5
  31. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 8: Sempre marcatissimo
  32. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 9: Presto possibile
  33. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Variation 1
  34. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 10: Sempre con energia
  35. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 11: Con espressione
  36. Etudes symphoniques (Symphonic Etudes): Etude 12: Finale: Allegro brillante