• Wed 17/04/24 19:00

Kristjan Randalu’s piano concert “Poet’s Love”!

“Poet’s Love” (“Dichterliebe” op. 48, 1840) is likely Robert Schumann’s most famous song cycle, which, alongside Franz Schubert’s earlier works “The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter” (“Die schöne Müllerin”, 1823) and “Winter Journey” (“Winterreise”, 1828), belongs to the core repertoire of the romantic Lied genre. The cycle is based on Heinrich Heine’s poetry collection “Lyrisches Intermezzo,” first published in 1823. Both Heine and Schumann were visionaries of their time, pushing the boundaries of the genre and rewriting the rules of their artistic domain. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that one of the brightest representatives of improvisational contemporary music, Kristjan Randalu, contributes to the further development of Schumann’s works, refreshing the structure and musical “vocabulary” of Schumann’s cycle with 21st-century musical language.

Throughout his life, Schumann repeatedly faced disappointment as his close associates doubted his ability to achieve true success as a pianist. He also constantly competed with his talented pianist wife, Clara Schumann, who later significantly contributed to the fame of his piano works. Therefore, “Poet’s Love” is imbued with a special technical ambition stemming from Schumann’s attempt to prove himself as a pianist. This is manifested, among other things, in the intricate accompaniment passages for the left hand, swiftly sweeping octave passages, and overall technical demands. Schumann also weaves hints of his influences – the German Lied masters Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven – into the melodies.

Kristjan Randalu selects Schumann’s score’s virtuosity as the starting point for his interpretation of “Poet’s Love,” leaving aside the aspect of text, highlighting the independent potential of piano music. His energetic movement on the keyboard refers to melodic lines and the literary motifs that underpinned Schumann’s compositions, expanding the original song cycle with tonal nuances, creative rhythmic impulses, and surprising directional shifts.

“I have always been fascinated by the abstraction of music without words, and these songs have been with me for many years,” explains Randalu. “I set out to reinterpret the cycle in a musical language, which I have now achieved. The new arrangements mostly originated from selected melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements, which serve as a starting point for entirely new discoveries.”

Similar to jazz icon Keith Jarrett, whose brilliant piano improvisations his arrangements at times resemble, Randalu received classical training and has maintained a connection to classical music. He has collaborated with renowned conductors such as Dennis Russell Davies and esteemed ensembles such as the London Symphony Orchestra, performing in the world’s most famous concert halls. Randalu first encountered Schumann’s “Poet’s Love” during his studies in the 1990s when the song cycle was part of his core repertoire in Lied duos with a baritone.

“We focused on every detail in rehearsals – for example, how the music amplifies nuances of the words or how the composer adds new layers of meaning to the words through harmony and melody. Classical song aesthetics have a long-established tradition over centuries. For me, it contrasts with the more immediate and individual expression of jazz, which is not necessarily refined according to a specific norm but reflects the world around us here and now.”

“Here and now” undoubtedly reflects Randalu’s new interpretations of Schumann as well, premiered in February 2021 at the Estonia Concert Hall in Tallinn. The nuanced arrangements clearly showcase the pianist’s mastery. Drawing on a deep understanding of classical tradition, Randalu’s variations present a contemporary vision that complements Schumann’s romantic original material with improvisational freedom, jazz spontaneity, and rich harmony. The impressive spectrum of thematic lines and melodic nuances that Randalu has brought out from this cornerstone of romantic piano music make his interpretation a unique whole, firmly rooted in our changing present while firmly standing in everlasting tradition.

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