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Major piano works of the Schumanns. Martino Tirimo in recital,


The piano music of Clara Schumann, for long neglected, has become more widely known in the last decade, following a première of her piano concerto and publication of shorter solo pieces. Yet despite the increased exposure of music by women composers of the Romantic era including Fanny Mendelssohn, the works are seldom featured in recitals. Aside from its intrinsic quality, Clara's music also offers an intriguing window on the subtexts of Robert's music, as there was so much mutual influence. Indeed the subtlety and sophistication of Clara's works performed alongside those by Robert is a potent canvas to portray their musical and personal relationship. That theme was the motivation for a striking series of concerts, 'Robert and Clara', the imaginative brainchild of the pianist Martino Tirimo, given at London's St John's Smith Square in May and June.

Tirimo, who has performed at the Schumann-Haus in Zwickau, emerged as an inspired interpreter of both Schumanns, in the second recital of the series on 19 May 2001. The programme featured two sets of Clara's works performed alongside two major works by Robert based on Clara's musical ideas. Three of Clara Schumann's six 'Soirees Musicale's Op 6 opened the programme. Composed when the young pianist was only seventeen, these abound in subtle charm and romantic idiom. The Toccatina in A minor with its flurrying shimmering chordal textures giving way to a translucent lyrical interlude, or the beguiling Chopinesque Notturno in F, with sophisticated chromatic harmony and the same beguiling falling five note melody as Robert's Op 17 Fantasy, composed two years earlier. Here Tirimo brought excitement to the rhythmic central episode, also recalling Robert's characteristic use of dotted rhythm themes. The most fascinating connection was in the final work Mazurka in G, a complex miniature that develops the fanfare like dotted motif later used by Robert for the Davidsbundlertänze. Here it was fascinating hear the familiar motif developed in quite different, and telling ways , showing the young composer fully attuned to the thematic process of early Romanticism. It was effective to follow this with a performance of the Davidsbundlertänze, in which the same motif is used prominently in the first piece, Lebhaft, in the same key. What is perhaps most striking about this inspired set, composed a year later in 1837, is its originality of form and syntax. Clara's works are, like Chopin and Mendelssohn, formally rounded and closed, yet it was Robert who, as in his later song cycles, experimented with open form, fragmentary expression made coherent by cyclic processes.

Seldom is this set performed with such intensity, mystery and poetry as well as vigour. Tirimo sustained tension with mercurial mood and tonal shifts within and between pieces commanding rapt attention, his nobility of pianistic tone and projection, coupled with a remarkably consummate technical control. Even in this vast acoustic, there was an attractive and rich tone at every dynamic level. The faster pieces were bold and virile, with no less drama in the softer pieces whose inward poetry, dwelling in a mysterious semi-consciousness, tiptoe-ing melody on a watery mist, conveyed the longing and reminiscence of romantic spirit. Tirimo took tempi at breathtaking pace, and while the mit humor could have lightened a touch, the passionate sweep was energising, reaching a climax just before the repeat of the second piece the inwardness, as in the final nicht schnell, radiating a profoundly moving eloquence.

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Copyright © 25 May 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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