Romantic Profiles

Featuring the music of Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Janáček

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Romantic Profiles


Ariel Lanyi Romantic Profiles back coverAriel Lanyi Romantic Profiles front cover

 Liner notes

The four profiles assembled in this album amount to a diversified portrait of romantic music: the humorous inflections of the young Schumann who springs the Marseillaise on the unsuspecting Viennese; the intellectual and technical bravado of the aging Liszt; the melancholy, nostalgic, introspective mood of the aged Brahms; and the tragic, doleful, depressive accents of Janáček. Over the nearly 70 years that the works span, they mark a change of temper from happy to mournful, from exuberant to contemplative, from virtuosic to restrained. The music starts in forte and ends in pianissimo.

Schumann: Carnival Scenes from Vienna (1839). Schumann wrote the Carnival Scenes in 1839, at a time when he wrote many works for piano, notably the Humoreske Op. 20, the 8 Noveletten Op. 21, and the Second Piano Sonata Op. 22. In the first movement, a quotation from the Marseillaise appears, at the time when the French anthem was banned in Austria. The first movement introduces new themes and motifs one after the other, with the first motif appearing as a ritornello-like theme. The second movement (Romanze), an aria-like song in G minor, is the most melancholy movement of the piece but it ends in a possibly hopeful G major chord. The third movement is a delightful and joyful short Scherzino, and it is followed by a fierce intermezzo, perhaps also in the form of an operatic aria. The piece ends with a highly virtuosic, energetic fifth movement that also includes operatic motifs.

Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H (1870). The theme B-A-C-H has been used by many composers, including Bach himself, Schumann, Brahms, Schnittke, and others. The Fantasy and Fugue, written in 1870, is an excellent example of Liszt’s late style, although the piece is based on an earlier one for organ. It is virtuosic, as all Liszt is, but with more of an intellectual-spiritual mood than his two concerti, the Années de pèlerinage, the Hungarian rhapsodies, and other pieces written before. Unlike some of these earlier pieces, the Fantasy and Fugue displays great variety: it starts with an organ fantasia-like opening, continues with a brooding short fugue that takes on the appearance of a choral-prelude, proceeds virtuosically, and ends with a set of organ sounding chords and a fast coda in octaves.

Brahms: Seven Fantasies for Piano Op 116 (1892). Brahms’s Fantasies Op. 116 is the first of his four last cycles for piano. In 1890, Brahms decided to give up composing but he didn’t stand by his decision. Out of esteem for the clarinetist of the Meiningen Orchestra, Richard Mühlfeld, he wrote the Clarinet Trio Op. 114, the great Clarinet Quintet Op. 115, and the Clarinet (or Viola) sonatas Op. 120. In the same period, he wrote several piano cycles, mostly intermezzi and capriccios, which form the Op. 116-119. Op. 116, written in 1892, is the only cycle by Brahms to be called Fantasies. It contains three fast capriccios (numbers 1, 3, and 7) and four slow intermezzi (numbers 2, and 4-6). Numbers 4-6 are connected, all three in E (4 and 6 in E major, and 5 in E minor), almost forming one piece consisting of three sections. The intermezzi reveal the late, melancholy Brahms, whereas the capriccios attest to the virtuoso, pianistic Brahms, always present in his piano music, both early and late.

Janáček: Piano Sonata 1.X.1905 (1906). One of the composer’s best known works, the sonata focuses on the element of death. The music reflects on the depression that Janáček was going through during that period, mainly because of the death of his daughter, Olga Janáček. The piece, however, specifically commemorates the death of František Pavlík, a Czech worker who was killed in a protest calling for a Czech university inBrno, the city where Janáček lived. The work can be classified as “typical” Janáček, mainly because of the extensive use of so-called “strange” harmonies. Janáček frequently tried to be “wrong” in his harmonies (although most of his works are clearly tonal) and used unpredictable progressions, mainly combinations of notes that sound foreign to the ear used to the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms… This “wrong” use is clearly heard in the sonata, which is why it can be called typical Janáček and atypical classical music.

Ariel Lanyi is a student at the Jerusalem Academy of Music Conservatory and High School. He studies piano, violin, and composition. Ariel participates in chamber ensembles both as pianist and violinist, is member of a jazz group, plays in the Conservatory’s orchestra, and sings in the High School choir. Ariel has performed in numerous concerts and recitals in Israel, Europe, and the US.