Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Schumann's "League of David" dances inspire mixage treatments by contemporary NYC composers

The piano work “Davidsbundlertanze”, Op. 6 (“Dances of the League of David”) comprises eighteen shot dance-like miniatures, sometimes ending inconclusively to merge to the next piece, starting in G and finally concluding quietly in C.  Recently, I purchased a Naxos CD performed by Benjamin Firth. I don’t get the feeling about epic battles between David and Goliath or other heroic Biblical history that the title suggests.  Schumann wrote the pieces at the time he was courting Clara.  In his era, it was common (and more socially acceptable than today) for women to marry during the teenage years. Nevertheless, Robert’s courtship was controversial for a while.  Clara eventually became a composer in her own right.

The CD is accompanied by the “Fantasiestucke” (“Fantasy Pieces”). Op. 12. These pieces (especially the opening) seems to share common material from other Schumann miniatures.  The set ends quietly in F.  Curiously, “In the Night” is the most violent, as if for a horror movie.    Most of Schumann’s miniature-sets end quietly, except for the famous “Carnaval”.  Contemporary composer Timo Andres has commented that quiet endings, at least for piano and chamber pieces, may seem more considerate of the listener than the grandiose finishes of many later romantic symphonies. 
I was curious, because recently some composers in NYC experimented with adding material to the “David Dances” in more contemporary style.  
Recently David Kaplan played one such suite at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village – I’ve reported from there before (May 29, 2012 and Oct. 19, 2010).  I didn’t make this one, but here is a review by Anthony Tommasini, I the New York Times, link

Gabriel Kahane posted a similar mixage on Facebook, from the Metropolis Ensemble (#4), here and here is a note on Tumblr, link.  Note the comparison to “Blurred Lines” (my “BIllBoushka” blog),

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