Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Schumann update

Back in August on my Wadlstrumpf blog, I wrote about hearing two of Schumann's B-A-C-H fugues performed live at the Baroque church in St. Peter im Schwarzwald, and about how I nonetheless remained certain that these pieces could be performed convincingly, and about how I was giving myself until the end of this year--until the end of Schumann's 200th Jubelaeumsjahr--to work toward that goal myself. To quote:

Johannes Götz played Schumann's B-A-C-H fugues numbers 5 and 2 and the canon in A-flat, and I learned that I am not the only organist baffled by certain aspects of these pieces. It's no wonder Clara Schumann was able to build an entire career out of being the only person who could properly interpret her husband's musical genius. I'm certain that despite their bizarreness, these pieces can be played convincingly, and I'm giving myself the rest of 2010 to figure out how to play the B-A-C-H fugues in a way that, short of leaving me satisfied, at least doesn't make me irritated.

Now that I've been back on the bench for a month, I've made good progress refining fugue 2 and getting fugues 3-6 under my fingers and feet, and I'm beginning to find satisfying registrations for all six on the Flentrop. It's time to play them for my organ teacher, David A., with whom I haven't had a lesson since early July. I happened to run into him today, and told him, with the devout fervor of a born-again Schumannophile, that I was working on all six fugues. It says something of the challenging not-quite-rightness of these pieces that David replied, "you sure are a glutton for punishment."

(Ironically, I initially dove into the Schumann fugues in part to hide from the piece David wanted me to work on this summer, Marcel Dupré's "Variations on a Noël." Talk about punishment. The Variations are like the two-semester senior quantum mechanics sequence I took in 1986-87: amazing and awe-inspiring, surely, but the ratio between effort to learn and consequent intellectual pleasure makes you think maybe you don't want to spend the rest of your life as a physicist after all, nor, 24 years later, spend the summer slowly and methodically practicing all those notes.)

No comments: