“Schumann,” says Heinz Holliger, “is the composer who has almost always been at the true centre of my thoughts”. On this recording, Alexander Lonquich makes plain the connections between their worlds, linking Kreisleriana’s dark, nocturnal romanticism with the “radicalised romanticism” of Holliger’s Partita. A century and a half separates the two works. Lonquich plays the 1838 version of Kreisleriana and the Partita (composed in 1999), two works dedicated to great pianists, respectively Frédèric Chopin and Andràs Schiff, and conveys Holliger’s vision of the language of Schumann extended into the present.
“As the final echoes of Kreisleriana give way to the first movement of Heinz Holliger’s Partita, our first reaction is one of amazement”, writes Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich in the liner notes. “The prelude seems to be a direct continuation of the Schumann style, now hurled off track and channelled in directions which it enters as a matter of course, as if only a thin wall had kept its latent energies from exploding in full force. As might be expected, we soon notice that other forces and more rapid gesticulations are at work, that one and a half centuries of musical composition have prepared the ground for the compositional explosion here on display, sweeping aside all the hoary rules and props of musical academia.” The core energies of the Partita, allying idiosyncratic imagination to great technical demands, are anticipated in Kresleriana, whose “musical idiom is high-strung, impatient, constantly interrupted. This music is not so much firmly shaped and flowing as improvisatory – suddenly bursting forth, faltering, yet presented with the felicitous rapture of an exhilarating line of verse. The pianist Alexander Lonquich exposes himself mercilessly to the rough and tumble of Kreisleriana’s romanticism.”
Lonquich’s decision to work with the first version of Kreisleriana, rather than the better-known revised version of 1849 is explained by the pianist in a performer’s note in the CD booklet. “Many passages in the original edition have far more extreme dynamic and agogic markings than we find twelve years later. Several ritardandos – hesitations that interrupt the natural flow, sometimes coming almost to a standstill – were later 'expunged'... To follow this system of tempos and contrasts is unavoidably to court an impression of inner disunity. Highly imaginative flights of fancy seemingly detached from their context are laboriously pieced together into a whole – an exact portrait of Schumann's psyche… To my mind, the 1849 version sacrificed many subtleties to the need for simplicity and clarity. The second piece is unquestionably more polished and well-rounded in the later version, but isn't there a special attraction to the fragility of the initial conception? And again, aren't the two editions almost identical? No, they aren't. When I play them I feel that those accents, those hesitations are without doubt formally constitutive. The original version really does tell us a completely different story.“
Alexander Lonquich was born in Trier, Germany. In 1976, at the age of 16 he won first prize at the Casagrande Competition in Terni, Italy, and ever since has been much in demand around the world. He has worked closely with Claudio Abbado, Kurt Sanderling, Ton Koopman, Emannuel Krivine and especially with Sandor Vegh, and with orchestras including the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Camerata Academia Salzburg, and the Orchestra da Camera di Mantova. He plays chamber music with Heinz Holliger, Joshua Bell, Tabea Zimmermann, Thomas Demenga, Shlomo Mintz, Steven Isserlis, Myklos Perényi and other distinguished musicians. Earlier Lonquich solo recordings, for EMI, dedicated to music of Mozart, Schubert, and Schumann received the highest critical acclaim and prizes ranging from the Edison Award to the “Diaposon d’Or”. His ECM recordings include the solo album “Plainte Calme”, a recital of 19th and 20th century French music, with Fauré, Messiaen and Ravel, of which American Record Guide’s Margaret Barela wrote “It doesn’t take long to become enchanted with the music making of pianist Alexander Lonquich. His sinuous melodic lines are full of sparkle and subtlety… His playing is of such consistently high quality and beauty”. Lonquich can also be heard on Gideon Lewensohn’s album “Odradek”.
Heinz Holliger is one of the defining composers and instrumentalists of ECM New Series, releases with his music including “Scardinelli-Zyklus”, “Beiseit/Alb-Cher”, “Lieder ohne Worte”, “Schneewittchen”, “Violinkonzert” and “Romancendres” (also a project with Schumann as its insprational centre). His skills as oboist are to the fore on “Lauds and Lamentations: Music of Elliott Carter and Isang Yun” and an album of Zelenka Trio Sonatas. As conductor on ECM, Holliger directs the Camerata Bern on an album of Sandor Veress’s music, as well as the WDR Sinfonieorchestar Köln in music of B.A. Zimmermann.
Lonquich and Holliger are frequent collaborators and can be heard together in the context of the Mozartwoche Salzburg at the end of January 2011.
CD booklet (German/English) includes liner notes by Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich and a performer’s note by Alexander Lonquich.