Sonata in G minor, op 22; Kreisleriana, op 16 (Dinorah Varsi)



Kreisler was an eccentric and fictive musician; and hence a very suitable alias for Schumann (as the young Brahms no doubt recalled when signing himself “Johann Kreisler II”). So Kreisleriana (like the diary called Hottentotiana or the projected essay Cäciliana) is autobiographical; a personal notebook or Notenbuch. Like the carnivals of opp 9 and 26, it has masked references to Schubert, to Chopin, and to Clara Wieck. To her, Schumann wrote “You and a thought of you play the main role ... How sweetly you will smile when you find yourself again… “. He was less explicit about the thematic and emotional content of the G minor sonata. But when the two are placed side by side, as on this record, we can plainly hear the reworking of the same material, often tailored to the selfsame figure.

     So perhaps all this music should ideally be interpreted almost in the linguistic sense, as the transla­tion of a personal utterance. I'm not sure that Richter's account of the sonata has this quality, for all its brilliance of technique and expression; nor have I heard it in Geza Anda's current (or Kempff's deleted) version. But in Dinorah Varsi's performance here (as in Malcolm Binns's perceptive reading of the other two sonatas on Saga) I seem to discern the authentic Schumann voice and accents.

     This seems to be her record debut; and clearly one cannot expect to start with a finished performance. There are certain deficiencies, especially in the sonata (where the slow movement for example sounds too hectic and tense). Nevertheless hers is essentially, complete account, which explains the full price. She lightens these hard works, and enlightens her hearers, by giving both hands their due weight. Thus one hears not only the left hand's noble rhetoric in op 16 no 8, but also its quirky off-beat humour. This added detail actually seems to clarify the music; and does much to clarify Schumann's rather puzzling description of his style as “intricate in its simplicity”. The expression is his own; and I find that Miss Varsi's depiction captures a speaking likeness.


The Musical Times, Oct. 1970 (p. 1010) © the estate of eric sams