Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Art of Conversation in Schumann

I recall one of the leading pianists of our time remarking to me about the power of dialogue in the middle movement of Schumann's Piano Concerto.
Knowing that movement so well, let alone having performed it so many times, I was struck by this pianist's assertion that the seamless nature of "conversation without words" in this music remains unequaled, in his view.
Using the contextual essence of the word "dialogue," I re-visited this brief masterpiece within a masterwork, and these familiar sounds took on a renewed kind of purview from the position of "question/answer," or "statement/retort," or the like, as applied to what "dialogue" means in language, spoken or read. What is most remarkable is that these facets of language, when they appear in a language containing not a word, bring to me the reason that this eminent musician utilized Dialogue as the core of this incarnation.
Schumann is magnificent in the manner of unrelenting conversation between piano and orchestra in one of the most unrelenting pieces in the masterpiece repertoire. The piece is the quintessence of quiet camaraderie and benignity, and yet contains great power in the schematic thrust of ideas. The fluidity of Mozart's K. 488, in its wonderful balance between piano and orchestra, comes to mind, as does the quiet brilliance of Oscar Wilde in many of his examples of conversation in, say, "The Picture of Dorian Gray."
I know that there will be some of you who may have other examples of great dialogue in music in mind; however, this blog is the result of a conversation I had with a great musician, and I thought that I might share this subject with you.

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