The shadow of Beethoven loomed hugely over the composers who followed him; Robert Schumann felt his inescapable influence more strongly than most.
The measured tread of the theme from the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 becomes an obsessive idee fixe in Schumann’s Etude-Variations, a rarely-heard virtuoso barnstormer of fantastical intricacy and imagination. The noble theme of the Geistervariationen from the tragic final months of Schumann’s life was, the composer believed, dictated to him by an angel.
Beethoven was a master of the theme and variation form, and ‘lighter’ sets find him at his wittiest and most relaxed, embroidering popular tunes of the day. Schoenberg and Webern, for their part, continued Beethoven’s discovery of new territories of musical expression at the piano.
This recital itself is a variation on the theme of Beethoven devised by the brilliant pianist Cédric Tiberghien, whose refinement of sound and searching intelligence equip him for the mercurial beauty of this music.