With City Summer Sounds now officially under way, we had a quick chat to Annie ahead of her performance tonight.
Your programme features works by Schubert and Schumann. What is it about these pieces in particular that made you want to perform them?
Schubert was an important influence on Schumann. Both composers wrote great song compositions and song cycles, and this lyrical quality shines through their instrumental works. I have always enjoyed programming them together. Between Schubert’s Improputu in B-flat major and Schumann’s Humoreske, I’m playing two Schumann songs transcribed by Liszt. They are both love songs, written to express his ardent love for Clara before they married. Widmung (Dedication) from Schumann’s song cycle, Myrthen Op. 25, was presented to Clara on their wedding day. Fruhlingsnacht (Spring evening) is from his Liederkreis Op. 39, set to poetry by Joseph Eichendorff.
You are currently writing a doctoral thesis on Schumann’s influences upon Brahms. How does this research feed into your performance of Schumann’s works?
My research is on Schumann’s influence on the young Brahms, specifically on the little known and very different original version of Brahms’s Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8.
Performance and musicology are very closely connected. They are quite different approaches, but for me as a performer, the goal is the same. My research involves multiple perspectives, including historical, analytical, performance practice, and performing traditions, all of which build one’s understanding of the composer, the music, and the tradition of interpretations of the music. These great works of art require much more than musical instincts to re-create or discover their meaning. I focus very much on Schumann’s musical-aesthetics in my current thesis, which are complex, as his literary and esoteric aesthetics are often entangled by preconceptions about his mental illness, a biographical aspect which often undermine Schumann’s musical innovation. Brahms, even at 20 years old, recognized Schumann’s genius and ingenuity, and became hugely influenced by his mentor throughout his life, even though they met only four months before Schumann was incarcerated in the mental asylum.
You also recently presented a lecture-recital on humour in Schumann’s Humoreske Op. 20. What aspects of humour can the audience expect to hear in your performance of this piece tonight?
Our understanding of humour is quite different, as Humoreske is by no means light-hearted! The German notion of Humour was originally a literary aesthetic in the 19th Century, championed by writers such as E.T.A. Hoffmann and Jean Paul, who were Schumann’s heroes.
Jean Paul wrote that humour is represented by ‘an infinity of contrasts’, and that laughter is produced when juxtaposing pain and greatness. For example, in Hoffmann’s novel Life and Opinion of Tomcat Murr, he tells two different but related stories, alternating them often at crucial moments to interrupt one from the other. Humoreske is used for the first time in history as a musical title by Schumann here.
What happens in Schumann’s Humoreske adheres to it’s literary origin. We have two contrasting but related tonalities, B-flat major, and G minor, which alternate throughout the work (just like in his Kreisleriana Op. 16). The great moment arrives towards the end in a frenzied section, when we hear three fff chords in B-flat major, followed immediately in G MAJOR – a terrific sense of freedom is achieved as he breaks free of the B-flat major/G minor plot! He has reached the zenith through ‘humour’. The Humoreske is indeed Schumann’s musical novel.
You can find out more about Annie Yim here: www.annieyim.com
Annie Yim performs a programme of Schubert and Schumann tonight (Tuesday 11th June 2013) at 7pm in the Performance Space (ALG10), College Building.
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