Please allow me that, apart from my regrettable ignorance of the Hungarian language, I remain Magyar in my heart and soul from birth to the grave. As a consequence, I earnestly wish to further the progress of Hungarian music.

Liszt to Antal Augusz

“Schumann’s entire self is wonderful to me” – interview with pianist Dénes Várjon

11. January 2019

Schumann’s piano chamber pieces are performed at the six concerts of the Complete Works Live series in the spring of 2019. Robert Schumann’s art has always been especially close to my heart – says Liszt Prize-winning pianist Dénes Várjon, who is the art director of the concert series.

Dénes Várjon. Photo: Misi Kondella

 

As the editor of the series, how did you decide to make Schumann's piano chamber music its subject?

About 10 years ago I already had a series of Schumann solo pieces consisting of six concerts in Italy. I have been performing Schumann’s chamber pieces with the greatest partners for many years, and it is a dream come true for me now to play them at home, at the Liszt Academy, since complete Schuman concerts are rare here.

 

What do you find unique in Schumann’s music?

Not just his music, but Schumann’s entire self is wonderful to me, even mysterious. It is not a coincidence that he called many of his works fantasies or fantasy pieces,  he also thought of himself as multiple personalities, and his writings and letters show that he had a complex and incredibly rich frame of mind. His earlier pieces, such as Carnaval or the Symphonic Etudes are often performed on stage, but many of his later works have faded into obscurity. The reason for this “fading away” is that he spent his last years in a mental institute, therefore his music and his entire self has become a mystery, and even today he is often the centre of debate. Besides keeping revisiting his romantic fantasy world, in his later pieces Schumann also became open to modern music, making him a favourite among many of my composer friends. He opened the door to a whole new world with these compositions.

 

What are the themes of the six concerts of the series? What should the audience expect at a given concert?

There is a common theme, and I believe that these chamber music concerts belong together. We perform four-hand pieces, and arrangements as well, one of which is performed for the first time in Hungary. It is my friend Steven Isserlis’ violin-cello-piano arrangement of the slow movement of Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor. Besides the programme, I would also like to make mention of the performers: we managed to assemble an incredibly colourful team, mostly consisting of the contributors of the kamara.hu festival (Tabea Zimmermann and Rafael Rosenfeld, among others), but we have also invited new artists to perform, such as violinists Hanna Weinmeister and Antje Weithaas. The pieces for four hands are performed by my wife, Izabella Simon, and I.