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Peter Lieberson

Publisher: AMP

Remembering Schumann (2009)
Publisher
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Category
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Piano + 1 Instrument
Year Composed
2009
Duration
17 Minutes
Orchestration
Availability
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Programme Note
Peter Lieberson Remembering Schumann (2009)
Premiere:
January 26 2010
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Emanuel Ax, piano
San Francsico, CA

Note:
Peter Lieberson composed Remembering Schumann in the winter of 2009 in Palm Springs, California. This work, which runs about twenty minutes, was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Carnegie Hall, Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and Barbican, London. It is dedicated to Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma.

“I have always had a special feeling for Schumann,” Lieberson says. “Even as a young man I loved the sensibility of his piano music, but I was also somewhat scared by how unhinged his music could be. When I was trying to compose this work a Schumann piece kept going through my head. I had trouble placing it but eventually realized it was the third variation of his Symphonic Etudes — some funny march music that is evoked in my first movement, 'Variations on Simple Chords.' The second movement is 'Variations on a Simple Melody,' which might suggest more connection to a song style. The third movement is 'Variations on A-S-C-H,' but for some reason the motif insisted on coming out as S-C-H-A in my piece — or, more precisely, with an A-flat interpolated to make it S-As (German for A-flat)-C-H-A. Although all three movements involve variations, the variations aren’t so clearly demarcated as they would be in a classical variations form. But of course my goal was to write an original piece rather than to specifically evoke the sound of Schumann.”

We might clarify that the A-S-C-H motif is one that Schumann used most famously in his piano suite Carnaval. The letters are the German names of the notes that in English are called A, E-flat, C, and B-natural, and they served as a musical encryption of the town Asch, where an early girlfriend of his had lived. In Carnaval, Schumann played with the order of the four notes, using not only the basic sequence of A-S-C-H but also the variants As-C-H and S-C-H-A. Lieberson’s sequences of S-C-H-A and S-As-C-H-A are clearly born of those two Schumannesque variants.

— James M. Keller
©2009

This program note may not be reproduced without the permission of the author.
Email for permission request: jamesmkeller@comcast.net

Performances
Reviews
To mark the bicentennials of both Schumann and Chopin, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax are touring with a programme celebrating these twin pillars of the 19th-century repertoire. The menu may have looked a bit staid as it stood, and continuity with the present was lacking. Thus, to complete the evening, the duo proposed Peter Lieberson's Remembering Schumann , a compact, 17-minute essay fusing a contemporary sensibility with a Romantic spirit to utterly alluring ends. What Lieberson reveres about his predecessor - both the moments of unabashed passion and the impulsive, almost manic shifts of mood and material - are given utterance here. A martial rhythm will suddenly interrupt a cello reverie. A rhapsodic line meanders to the point of disintegration.
Allan Ulrich, Financial Times,29/01/2010
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