History in the Making
Jörg Demus died a few weeks ago at the age of ninety. MDG commemorates this great pianist with a new release of the Fantasiestücke op. 12 and Humoreske op. 20 by Robert Schumann, to whose music Demus felt drawn throughout his life. Performed on a Viennese pianoforte by Conrad Graf and recorded with the finest digital technology even more than thirty years ago, this program documents his tireless advocacy of historical keyboard instruments.
Conrad Graf himself had given Clara and Robert Schumann a comparable instrument as a wedding present. Its special appeal comes from the “moderator,” a lever creating an elfin pianissimo, and the “harp stop,” which, as on the harpsichord, generates a pizzicato effect. Along with the ”pearly” articulation typical of the pianoforte, these effects are a perfect match for Schumann’s romantic pieces.
Fantasy for the Taking
The name “Fantasiestücke” contains a program. With E.T.A. Hoffmann’s writings as their model, these “Fantasy Pieces” create a whole cosmos of romantic associations. Even the titles of the individual pieces suggest yearning for the faraway: “In the Night,” “Fable,” “Dream’s Confusion” – fantasy spreads its wings and rises in flight.
Schumann is found in his entirety in the “Grand Humoresque,” as the composer described it to Clara; laughter, mixed with tears: “Everything is beautifully depicted in my op. 20.” Jörg Demus, who was at home on the concert stage from the age of sixteen, brilliantly understood how to bring audiences closer to “Eusebius and Florestan,” the two souls in Schumann’s heart. His death is a great loss.