Einav Yarden, Second Sundays at Two, Rolling Hills United Methodist Church
DAVID J BROWN
I’ve no clear memory of that previous performance, but this time her account struck me as having a just about ideal balance between acknowledging the somberness implicit in the Rondo’s tonality but also fully expressing its whimsical rhythmic capriciousness. Also, Ms. Yarden’s keen observation of its many shifts in dynamic, both subtle and sudden, left little doubt that this late addition to C. P. E. Bach’s vast oeuvre (he was 71 when it was published in 1785) reflected the prevailing early Romantic Sturm und Drang artistic ethos. Perhaps someday she will let us hear other pieces from its parent set.
|C. P. E. Bach.
|Clara Wieck (1832).
But… When Schumann published Kreisleriana, Phantasien für Piano-Forte later in 1838 as his Op. 16, the dedication went to “Seinen Freunde Herrn F Chopin” and into this already divided set of influences must be added the work’s title: the “Kreisler” in Kreisleriana was the eccentric fictional musician Johannes Kreisler featured in several books by the polymath writer / composer / artist / critic E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), a profound influence on early German Romanticism in general and Schumann in particular (who even contrived to die at exactly the same age, 46, as Hoffmann).
|Kreisler: sketch by Hoffmann.
Kreisleriana begins very much in media res, as if a door had been opened suddenly to reveal a whirlwind of activity already under way. Ms. Yarden captured this first movement’s Äusserst bewegt (extremely agitated) nature perfectly, her right hand flying through the teeming motion while her left articulated clearly the underlying harmonic progression in octaves, chords, and hairpin-emphasized single notes.
|Robert Schumann in 1839.
This is short-lived, however, as the third movement, Sehr aufgeregt (very excitedly) surges into earshot, at a compressed piano dynamic this time, with Ms. Yarden inserting barely a pause between it and its predecessor to thus underline the whole work’s essential unity. Again that inner dualism asserts itself with a central Etwas langsamer (somewhat slower) section before the return, and a fortissimo Noch schneller (even faster) coda that was truly torrential in Ms. Yarden’s hands.
|E. T. A. Hoffmann: self-portrait.
Though the final movement is marked Schnell und spielend (fast and playfully), it maintains the work’s overall minor key tonality, and in Ms. Yarden’s performance the implicit darkness was emphasized by her relatively measured tempo and implacably crisp articulation of its tripping, dotted motion. The central section, far from forming a lighter contrast, is Mit aller kraft (with all power), hammering out the rhythm like a nightmarish keyboard echo of the scherzo of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. The opening returns, but as it wound down to its exhausted ppp end, Ms. Yarden gave it a hollow, haunted quality that reminded one of nothing so much as the Dance of Death at the end of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.
After this fine performance of one of Schumann’s greatest piano masterpieces, as skillful in execution as it was responsive to the music’s many-sided content, an encore felt superfluous, but nonetheless Ms. Yarden gave us one, the Sarabande fourth movement of J. S. Bach’s English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807. The whole recital can be enjoyed for the next month on Vimeo.
Rolling Hills United Methodist Church, Torrance, Sunday, November 12, 2023, 2.00 p.m.
Images: The performance: Classical Crossroads; Einav Yarden: Artist website; Clara Wieck, Robert Schumann, C. P. E. Bach, Hoffmann, Kreisler: Wikimedia Commons.
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