The three works on the program are Wolfgang Mozart’s Serenade No. 12 for Winds in C-Minor, K. 388/384a (1782) performed by Eugene Izotov on oboe, Richie Hawley on clarinet, Dennis Michel on bassoon, Julie Landsman on horn, and several Academy Fellows; Robert Schumann’s Fairy Tales (Märchenerzählungen) for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano, Opus 132 (1853) by Cynthia Phelps on viola, Richie Hawley on clarinet and Jeremy Denk on piano; and Mozart’s String Quintet No. 3 in C-Major, K. 515 (1787) by Jorja Fleezanis and Kathleen Winkler on violins, Cynthia Phelps and Karen Dreyfus on violas, and Alan Stepansky on cello.
The Schumann is definitely the exotic bloom of this program. The composer’s descent into the hell of mental illness — he seems to have suffered an extreme bipolar condition — had all but reached its nadir when an 1853 visit from his young friend and protegee, Johannes Brahms, gave him the will to pull back from the brink of the abyss and even attempt some composition.
Sadly, his brief sojurn in the eye of his own mental hurricane produced only one salvageable work of art, the Opus 132 Fairy Tales. The darkness soon returned, the winds in his soul began to howl, and a few months later he attempted to drown himself in the Rhine. The last two years of his life were passed in an asylum.
After the composer’s death, his widow, the celebrated pianist Clara Wieck, called in Brahms and together they went through Schumann’s last manuscripts. The few that could be saved they edited and published; the rest they burned (“Why leave this deformed footprint behind?” asks the critic of the director in Fellini’s 8½). The Fairy Tales were the last works to be nudged into shape and allowed into print by the duo.
Thanks no doubt to the calming presence of Brahms, the Fairy Tales show little sign of the the agitation of Schumann’s mind. They are charming and lighthearted, full of memorable, graceful tunes, with only the occasional weirdness or eccentricity that I have come to regard as going with the territory when I am in Schumannland.
Also, “Concerto Night” looms, and the Competition Finals for string players will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Hahn Hall; Competition finals for winds, brass, percussion and piano come at 7 p.m. Thursday in Hahn Hall.
Tickets to this Festival Artists concert are $10 and $42, with those ages 7 to 17 admitted free. Tickets to the Concerto Competition Finals are $15. For tickets and other information, call 805.969.8787 or click here.