Schumann & Holliger: Aschenmusik

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COMPOSERS: Schumann & Holliger
LABELS: ECM New Series
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann & Holliger: Aschenmusik
WORKS: Schumann: Six Pieces in Canonic Form (arr. Kirchner); Romances; Intermezzo from the FAE Sonata; Violin Sonata No. 1 (arr. for cello) • Holliger: Romancendres
PERFORMER: Heinz Holliger (oboe, oboe d’amore); Anita Leuzinger (cello); Anton Kernjak (piano)


Heinz Holliger is one of many who find it hard to forgive Clara Schumann for burning her husband’s late Romances for cello and piano. Their absence haunted him for years until, in 2003, he composed his Romancendres, joining the French terms for romance and ashes. His six masterly miniatures do, indeed, feel like flickering spectres conjured in Schumann’s desperate mind. Two ‘conversations’ between glassy cello harmonics and insistent beats on prepared piano act as gateways to a ghostly region and a procession of four intense scena, containing fleeting quotes from Schumann, the manic pattering wings of a dying bird, an expressionist angel of death and pale phantom dirge. Holliger’s language is subtly infused with the spirit of Schumann throughout.

This intriguing programme, rewarding taken in any order, includes the poignant Intermezzo from the FAE Sonata on oboe d’amore, a mercurial performance of the Violin Sonata by cellist Anita Leuzinger with pianist Anton Kernjak, Schumann’s Romances for oboe and Kirchner’s irresistible arrangement of the six canons.


Cellist Christoph Richter recorded Romancendres (ECM 476 3225) with Dénes Várjon, and I prefer their more intensely dramatised performances. Nevertheless, a must-have disc for all Schumann lovers. Helen Wallace