Schumann – Piano Sonatas No. 4- Santiago Mantas – CR6033

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Elsewhere in this issue will be found a feature by the distinguished musician Santiago Mantas on his completion of Robert Schumann’s unfinished Fourth Piano Sonata, a work begun by the master in 1837 but for reasons (doubtless of having undertaken too much varied work, as usual) which remain unknown, was never completed.

The recording is, literally, state-of-the-art.

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Description

Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) composed in 1838, is a collection of thirteen contrasting, picturesque miniatures. Each characteristic piece evokes a visualisation of its title, which were added retrospectively (as an afterthought). Many of the pieces germinate out of the opening theme of the first piece ‘Of Foreign Lands and People’ with its opening characteristic rising arch followed by a falling passage. This is also clear to see in piece No. 4 ‘Pleading Child’ and piece No. 8 ‘By the Fireside’ but also more disguised in pieces No. 2 ‘A Curious Story’ and No. 7 ‘Dreaming’. The work concludes with ‘The Poet Speaks’ and reflects back to the entire cycle.

Waldszenen (Scenes from the Forest) composed in 1848-49, is a cycle of nine contrasting pieces, each of which are evocative of their title. ‘Eintritt’ (Entrance) draws the listener’s attention to various registers of the piano in quick succession, reflecting shifting interests upon entering a forest. ‘Jager auf der Lauer’ (Hunter in Ambush) is full of surprises, drama and excitement. The following two pieces about flowers are very contrasting. The first, ‘Einsame Blumen’ (Solitary Flowers) is a simple and charming duet. The second, entitled ‘Verrufene Stelle’ has sinister and disturbing overtones inspired by the poem ‘Haunted Place’ by F. Hebbel. ‘Freundliche Landschaft’ (Pleasant Landscape) has a breezy open-air quality. ‘Herberge’ (Wayside Inn) is a good-humoured witty piece. ‘Vogel als Prophet’ (Prophet Bird) is a flight of the imagination, very delicate yet exploratory. ‘Jagdlied’ (Hunting Song) is a robust and jaunty movement with a humorous central passage. The final work, ‘Abschied’ (Farewell) is a poetic song without words. In this movement, Schumann cleverly conceals melodic material from previous movements giving the entire cycle a harmonious and organic unity.

Schumann: Piano Sonata No. 4 in F minor (realisation – Mantas)

The original manuscripts of the sketches to Schumann’s fourth Piano Sonata in F minor were composed in February 1837. The first movement marked Allegro molto has two sketches lasting 66 bars. The first of these opens the movement with a sweeping arpeggio. This motive is arresting, dramatic and driven. In contrast, the second subject is tender and lyrical in nature.

One of the reasons why Schumann was such a great composer of the Sonata form was because his schizophrenic personality oscillated between two imaginary characters of his own invention, Florestan (impulsive and spontaneous) and Eusebius (inward and thoughtful). This important personality trait was vital in establishing the contrast between first and second subjects.

The development section begins at the second sketch, which introduces new material and then continues for 10 bars with only a bass line written out. Here Schumann uses the sweeping arpeggio at the opening of the movement, only this time he augments the motive and modulates through various keys.

The recapitulation (third section of Sonata form) essentially required a repeat of the opening motive, only this time the bridge passage linking the first and second subjects needed to be modified in order to finish in the movement’s opening key.

Schumann’s third Sonata in F minor Op 14 originally had five movements but is nowadays played as a four movement work and very occasionally in three movements. Schumann removed one of the scherzos from the five movement work and I have included this piece as a second movement in the fourth Sonata.

In the third movement of the third Sonata, marked ‘Quasi-Variazioni’, Schumann reduced the number of variations from six to four. In the scheme of the fourth Sonata’s third movement, I have retained the excluded two variations prefixed by the theme composed by Clara Schumann.

The sketches for the finale, marked Agitato, are more substantial and consist of 166 bars. The last sketch is the most elaborate of all the sketches and begins the development section. In this passage, Schumann ventures into distant keys and introduces a new theme.

The manuscript clearly shows that he changed the time signature from 4/4 to 2/2. In this last sketch, which begins in semi-quavers, he realised that the opening of the movement should also have been in semi-quavers. He began to correct this but did not complete his corrections. I believe he would have continued his alterations, had he had completed the movement. A good example of this is the first movement of the early version of the fourth Symphony written principally in quavers. The later version, the one almost exclusively played today, is in semi-quavers.

Poppy Fields by Santiago Mantas

In war situations, as shells hit the ground, the earth is churned up bringing poppyseeds to the surface. In a relatively short space of time, a field of poppies emerges. The redness of the flower represents the blood loss in war.

My composition begins with a single note representing a poppyseed which then starts to grow. After several flowerings a field of poppies is established. The predominant characteristic behind the oscillating motion is one of sadness reflecting on wars past. My aim was to induce a relaxed state of mind in the listener mimicking the opium effect.

The transparency of the musical textures represents the delicate, fragile, paper quality of the flower. The piece finishes in G major, an open-air key.

© Santiago Mantas

Santiago Mantas – Pianist, composer and conductor.

Santiago Mantas’ performing career has taken him on tours of America, Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Apart from numerous solo recitals on London’s South Bank and broadcasts by the BBC, he has also given concert performances for transmission in Spain, Austria, Central and South America.

He performs often both as conductor and soloist, with international orchestras, at European festivals and concert series. His appearances at the Royal Albert Hall have included a world première of Paul Hart’s Piano Concerto in D ‘The Cathcart’. ‘Santiago Mantas gave a fine and sensitive performance’ (Musical Opinion)

Mantas gave the first BBC broadcast and first performance of piano works and songs by Manuel de Falla and perform these works at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Having studied with Jorge Bolet, Mantas can proudly claim to be a link in the chain of the great romantic pianists – a lineage that can be followed back to Liszt via Leopold Godowsky and Moritz Rosenthal.

On his most recent CD he conducts the world premiere recording of Mozart’s complete Serenade in Eb, K 375, with the European Union Chamber Orchestra. His recent composition, Serenade for Strings ‘Remembrance’, written to commemorate the First World War, has received critical acclaim.

Musical Opinion – Review

Schumann: Kinderszenen Op 15; Waldszenen Op 82;

Piano Sonata No 4 (completed Mantas);

Mantas: Poppy Fields

Santiago Mantas, piano

Claudio CR-6033-6 B

[76′ 11″] *****

Elsewhere in this issue will be found a feature by the distinguished musician Santiago Mantas on his completion of Robert Schumann’s unfinished Fourth Piano Sonata, a work begun by the master in 1837 but for reasons (doubtless of having undertaken too much varied work, as usual) which remain unknown, was never completed.

Here comes its first recording, played by Mantas himself, and the result is – to my ears – wholly convincing. I will not outline the process by which Mantas achieved the result he did, for everything the interested music-lover will wish to know is contained within his article, but I have to say I did not know just what a good pianist Santiago Mantas is – having always considered him to be a noted conductor and pianist. However, this finely played programme concludes with a short solo piano piece ‘Poppy Fields’ by Mantas himself, included almost as an encore. Clearly, the title has a Great War connotation, and this moving testament to remembrance marks a fitting conclusion to a disc which is self-evidently a major contribution to the wide-ranging Schumann discography. The recording is, literally, state-of-the-art.

Robert Matthew-Walker