(If) in the previous variation, or in the previous study, Schumann retained the theme, just reversed in the main voice, and the dramaturgy: death, life, epitaph. However, in the next variation, Schumann practically disappears in his dreams, he moves away from the theme, moves away from this reality and he becomes abstract … There, in the previous variation, we met the spirit of Beethoven. It was all filled with Beethoven’s feelings. It is absolutely obvious in the next variation, we meet the spirit of Paganini.
Again, the action takes place on three levels. It presents extreme physiological challenges to the human body and brain – to control life in three registers, and an extraordinary dramatic effect is achieved.
Why am I so confident about Paganini and … In this regard, I’ll now say what that the interpretation of the subsequent study lacks. At the top, the violin exercises are quite obvious: (2.01 – 2.21). That is, it is absolutely obvious a violin study, a violin capriccio. And, of course, we have only one violinist who settled in the souls and minds predominantly, of Liszt and Schumann, and less so in Chopin’s. Liszt and Schumann are so affected and so sweetly wounded by the abilities and demonism of Paganini that, he remains in their works with them until the end of their life. Paganini is constantly present and forces them to review all of the piano technique. But in the middle voices we see, quite clearly, the self-portrait of Schumann (3.07 – 3.19). When a tenor and a baritone in middle voice sing an open-hearted romance, it is, as a rule, the author’s voice. And therefore, the author is reflecting and living in the memories of the impressions of Paganini, of course, staying in the foreground. And Paganini is far away, in the dreams.
Most of the time all the performers are so busy (3.52 – 3.54) with these violin exercises, that in all the performances we see only these violin exercises – dry, evil, stupid. Only with one desire – to not even show Paganini performing – I doubt that the musicians still understand that this is the image of Paganini, I have never heard about it at any rate either in musicology or from performers.
In addition to that, it is neither a fantastic image of Paganini performing with his brilliant studies – caprices, but just doing it with some Paganini, – that we have in many hundreds of performances. And incredibly evil they always are (4.38 – 4.39).
I do not understand what the interpreter’s idea is guided by. When it is so obvious here that we have in the smoke above the spirit of Paganini (4.47 – 4.49) is a memory only, whereas in the foreground we have a reflecting poet – the author himself (4.55 – 5.03). If we connect these two images, which we receive is as follows – (5.06 – 5.10). Most important, of course, is the voice of the author. And the most dramatic and basic thing that exists here is the piercing intonations that should arise when the voice of the violin and the author’s voice are combined, namely in here: (5.29 – 5.32) – this intonation, (5.33 – 5.37). The entire romanticism of the human soul from the most ancient times to the present day, is revealed in these intonations (4.45 -5.50).
These intonations, these delays are haunting us everywhere – in popular music, in restaurant music, in film music. This is a favorite natural response of a nostalgic person – young and elderly and alike: (6.06 – 6.10). How it was possible to disregard and look over this for two centuries, without concentrating our attention on this nostalgic voice, on the stunning free picture of a nostalgic poet – I cannot comprehend it.
Then, in the middle part of this little poetic thing, we see the author’s excitement (6.37 – 6.41). Again, the development is going on on three levels: (6.45 – 6.48) – the lower voice, the middle voice: (6.51 – 6.54). Again, sickly sweet intonations of a poetic man, excited, even pleasantly excited. And at the top: (7.04 – 7.06). On three levels, we have beautiful bitter-sweet experiences (7.14 – 7.23). Here Schumann is screaming … – this, of course, is him and cannot be anyone else, – and then he wakes up from his dreams and then plunges into them again (7.33 – 7.37).
Here we must completely get away from time, free ourselves. The stratifications of the modern man interfere here – his constrains, his triviality, his lack of inner freedom, the lack of freedom of consciousness. Hence, modern musicians read the texts without going into them, playing in a fixed order without thinking, forgetting that there is time, life, freedom, plasticity. And we have already
lost freedom and flexibility in modern life, plasticity, poetry, elevation and, in general, the aura of the individuality of the man. And I hope that this loss of humanity by humanity is only temporary.
Let us return here, to the final part of the image of Schumann, dreaming and thinking about his great colleague: (8.44 in complete freedom and sweetly aching sadness – 8.57). I think that you will all hear the author’s voice, for he is perfectly alive here both in timbre and in musical expression (9.06 – 9.16). It is impossible to better express in musiс a dreaming poet, thinking about the beauty of a friend and colleague who changed him for life. As such, it is a complete withdrawal from this reality. A withdrawal into his own world.
It is very good that Schumann inserted this variation and kept it, because it fits in very nicely after the pathetic variation and before the next block of variations.Which is very intense technically and the next stage to rebirth and the next step away from death. Therefore, it was
absolutely dramatically necessary to get away from all this matter, fall into a dream. Schumann is the greatest master of dreams in the history of music and humanity. (10.16 until the end of the recording).
Translated by Anna Mikhailichenko