Schumann's Carnaval is not the most popular work among concert pianists.
I know several who refuse to play it. It is a youthful, immature and flawed
work and really is a collection of twenty miniature pieces put together as
a whole. In fact, some pieces are not even miniatures but aphorisms with
pieces lasting 15 seconds, 29 seconds, 36 seconds, 37 seconds, 50 seconds
and so on. And yet people complain about Webern's music being too short!!
It is very difficult to amalgamate all this into a satisfactory whole. The
inner turmoil in Schumann's life as to whether he wanted marry his fiancée
Ernestine von Fricker or to release his passion for Clara Wieck is shown
in this erratic work. Some of the music is good... perhaps, even very good...
and some of it is both poor and aggravating. The opening Preambule
is sturdy and later sparkles but at such a brisk pace it sounds crude, although
brilliantly played. Pierrot is simply awful and with repeated three notes
standing out like sore and painfully throbbing thumbs. Arlequin is
also silly and now we have five-note painful thumbs. Such over-repetition
is the sign of poor composition as well as lacking subtlety. The Valse
Noble is that sort of cheap salon music and Eusebius sometimes
sounds like Victorian pub music. Florestan is a ghastly angry waltz
and has some more silly sounds with a repeated two note clanging.
Replique is a good piece which Boyde propels along, but by the time
we arrive at Chiarina, that cheap sound is back. The next piece is
called Chopin ... but why? Reconnaissance is another example
of silly music but many will love it. The German Waltz: Paganini is
awful and crude ... really poor quality light music. The final March
goes a little way to redeem this annoying work. But it is brilliantly played
and excellently recorded.
Waldszenen is far better music although only the first two and last
pieces of the nine are outstanding ... the rest is rather ordinary and I
do wish someone would shoot that Prophetic Bird!
The seven pieces from Op 68 are unpretentious pieces.
Really splendid piano playing but the music? Well do I understand the many
pianists refusing to play Carnaval.