Showing Schumann Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Leif Ove Andnes' Schumann In 'Paradise'

All this week we are showing some respect for Robert Schumann, an often misunderstood composer, whose bicentennial was more or less celebrated earlier this year. Do you like Schumann's music? Tell us your stories and your favorite pieces. Don't care for Schumann? Tell us about that, too, in the comments section. Below, pianist Leif Ove Andnes picks out a favorite, but forgotten, piece by Schumann.

Leif Ove Andsnes i
Lorenzo Agius
Leif Ove Andsnes
Lorenzo Agius

What strikes me often about Schumann is how much he is loved by musicians, but how often he is misunderstood or under-appreciated by audiences.

And then there are all the wonderful but neglected pieces.

I was ecstatic a few years back when I discovered the secular oratorio Paradise and the Peri, thanks to the marvelous recording by John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir, the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantiques, Barbara Bonney and a bunch of other wonderful soloists.

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How come the major work by Schumann at his compositional peak (the piece was written in 1843, when Schumann was 33 years old) is literally forgotten? After all, this is music that is as glowing as most of the songs written a couple of years earlier — songs written in a whirlwind of passion after Schumann was finally allowed to marry his sweetheart Clara.

Some have argued that the flowery libretto of Paradise is not very relevant to our time, but I don't see the problem. The oratorio is totally believable and the diversity of feeling Schumann creates is from the highest inspiration. Pure bliss!

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes plays Schumann in Berlin on Oct. 21. His new recording of Rachmaninov Piano Concertos is released on Oct. 25.

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