This is the first of Evgeny Kissin's two recitals celebrating the 200th birthdays of both Robert Schumann and Frederic Chopin. Schumann's Fantasiestücke comprise eight pieces inspired by ETA Hoffmann's collection of short stories Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier. Schumann incorporated characterizations into the pieces based on his own contrasted inventions, the fiery Florestan (in Aufschwung) and the reflective Eusebius (in Des Abends). Schumann wrote to a friend apologising for their lack of "finish": "they are for the most part reflections of my turbulent inner life when man and musician always strive to express themselves simultaneously." Much the same might be said of the Novelleten, which have literary leanings but nothing specific; instead, they resemble Hoffmann's patchwork narrative technique by being collections of different styles and moods in one piece.
Although temperamentally similar, Chopin's four Ballades are formally rater disparate, each being an individual. The first opens enigmatically in the "wrong key' but settles into G Minor and at its heart is one of Chopin's most beautiful melodies. The second is dedicated to Schumann and curiously mixes its opening F Major with, later, A Minor. The third in A flat has a hypnotic quality, particularly in the middle section. The fourth is a masterful amalgamation of sonata, variation and rondo forms and it is one of Chopin's highest achievements.
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Riccardo Chailly