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Dudana Mazmanishvili

Toccata | Kinderszenen | Carnaval

  • Type CD
  • Label CuGate Classics
  • UPC 4038912420285
  • Catalog number CGC 042
  • Release date 08 September 2017
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About the album

CuGate Classics: Dudana, you are just recording an album with piano music by Robert Schumann. Schumann is generally believed to be the founding father of the Golden Age of Romantic piano music. Is that true or were the changes after Beethoven and Schubert just in the air? One could think of Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) and Chopin (1810 – 1849), both of them born at the same time, just like Schumann (1810 – 1856). All three have in common that they perfected their craft early, and they also died young at nearly the same time.

Mazmanishvili: Indeed, it is amazing, how such things are evolving. But it is not only the Romantic period where we can observe such coincidences. Have a look at the Baroque, where Bach, Handel and Scarlatti were also born in the same year. Sometimes it appears just as if history would repeat itself. Also, in my view, those ages have a great deal in common. Schumann’s music is full of Bach’s heritage – you will find clear structures there, often enough heralding romantic harmonies and also lots of polyphony. That’s what constitutes Schumann’s music as well, and as I аm very keen on playing Bach, this connection means a lot to me. This is one reason why their music is timeless.

CuGate Classics: In this time a completely new style in piano playing came up, technically highly sophisticated, with high speed scales, big dynamic ranges and sound levels, that could fill the biggest concert halls of that time. The piano seized a new position in the public. Maybe one reason is the emerging new piano making technology – catch-word double-escapement action – which was evented by the piano maker Sébastien Erard at that time?

Mazmanishvili: Certainly, most likely this is one reason, yet one must see this development in close conjunction with the piano recitals, which came into vogue then. Franz Liszt was a great promoter of this new concert format. The same applies to Clara Wieck, Schumann’s wife, who was an extraordinary pianist as well, and her numerous concert tours certainly helped to make this new emerging musical performance popular. Needless to say, the piano had to be raised to a new technical level in order to still be heard up to the last row of the concert hall. And of course the instruments had to satisfy the upcoming virtuoso challenges. We know that Schumann was at daggers drawn with his manual capabilities, always in direct competition with Clara, and he brought this issue to a head by his Toccata, which our album starts with.

CuGate Classics: Which is regarded as one of the heaviest pieces of the piano literature.

Mazmanishvili: Definitely, it is. The challenges are really extreme. The whole piece must flow seamlessly and at the same time constantly keep rhythm. But beforehand, you have to cope with technical nastinesses such as extreme double stops of the right hand, which are hard attacks on both the little and the ring finger. It was a kind of experiment to attain the virtually unattainable – the fundamental idea of the Romantic.

CuGate Classics: During the recording of Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) there was just another „Important Event“, to cite Schumann, around the corner: Your new role as a mother. That seems to be congenial to the cycle, although this one is anything else but a musical mother and child story. 

Mazmanishvili: We know that Schumann wrote 30 movements for this cycle but eventually only chose 13 for the final version. For me it is far less, therefore a programmatic commitment and not at all for children. Rather, it is very much a kind of stage direction for the pianist to create an appropriate atmosphere with the help of a picture.

CuGate Classics: In the 19th century secret societies strongly came into vogue. Schumann as well was fascinated by this game of undercover identities and names.  So he created the „Davidsbuendler“, a fictional circle of living and deceased artists, who all got fantasy names.

Mazmanishvili: Yes, it is a kind of pianistic costume party. These names are congenial to Carnaval, culminating in the piece „Sphinx“ – which indeed is a weird puzzle: it is three bars with the notes Es – C – H – A, As – C – H and A – Es – C – H [in German Es  is E flat, H is B and As is A flat] According to Schumann’s instructions they should never be played. I аm actually playing Sphinx, since the whole Carnaval is orbitting around this sequence of tones, and in my opinion it is a genuine epicentre for the balance of the whole work. But – to be a bit sphinx-like – I аm just plucking the piano strings with my fingers, which gives it some unexpexted mystery.

CuGate Classics: As a suspenseful contrast at the finale of the album’s program you choose, almost like a hidden pop track, a piece of your Georgian compatriot Revaz Lagidze – called Rondo Toccata. The level of difficulty is also extreme. Besides the name, are there any other similarities? 

Mazmanishvili: Schumann and Lagidze are principally using the same basic structure. Formally, Schumann takes advantage of the sonata form and Lagidze goes for the rondo, so both of them draw on classical patterns, And last but not least, Rondo Toccata is a smashing piece of music, pianistic in the best sense, too good to only be seen as just an encore showcase. This is why I felt it is worthy to be brought here for the first time on CD

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