Four Impromptus D. 899 (op. 90)

N. 1 Allegro molto moderato in C Minor

N. 2 Allegro in E-Flat Major

N. 3 Andante mosso in G-Flat Major

N. 4 Allegretto in A-Flat Major

Composed in 1817


Six Moment Musicaux  D. 780 (op. 94)

N. 1  Moderato in C Major

N. 2  Andantino in A-Flat Major

N. 3  Allegro moderato in F Minor

N. 4  Moderato in C-Sharp Minor

N. 5  Allegro vivace in F Minor

N. 6  Allegretto in A-Flat Major

Composed in 1828


MusicWeb International, September 2020

CD Review – Glyn Pursglove

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
L’enchantement Retrouvé
Four Impromptus, D.899 (Op.90) (1827) [30:01]
Six Moments Musicaux, D.780 (Op.94) [30:09]
Ingrid Carbone (piano)
rec. 2019, Odradek Records Studio.
DA VINCI CLASSICS C00253 [60:10]

These two sets of klavierstücke by Schubert have several things in common. One is that each set bears a title which was probably invented by a publisher, rather than chosen by Schubert; and each of these titles is inappropriate. In the 1820s the word impromptu would have set up expectations of, in the words of John Daverio, something “along the lines of the fashionable salon pieces for piano produced in sizable quantities during the initial decades of the nineteenth century by the Czech composer Václav Jan Tomášek and his pupil Jan Václav Voříšek […] these were tailor made for amateur pianists who could negotiate a certain amount of flashy but not very difficult passagework. Schubert’s impromptus are of an entirely different order; cast for the most part in larger forms, they posed far greater challenges to players and listeners than the charming character pieces of Tomášek and Voříšek” (‘“One More Beautiful Memory of Schubert”: Schumann’s Critique of the Impromptus D.935’, The Musical Quarterly, 84:4, 2000, pp. 604-18). It is no surprise that Schumann (in a review in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (December 14, 1838) should have observed (with reference to D.835, though the comment is equally apt where D.899 is concerned) “I can hardly believe that Schubert really called these movements ‘impromptus’”.

Leaving aside the implications of this admittedly new generic term, the French word ‘impromptu’, in normal usage, designates something produced off the cuff, without forethought. Only those deaf to Schubert’s artistry could think such descriptions appropriate to these pieces. Like Impromptu, the title Moments Musicaux trivializes Schubert’s music, overlooking, or refusing to acknowledge, its seriousness of craft and meaning. To compound the insult (doubtless not conscious) the first publisher of these six pieces, the Viennese publisher Marcus Leidesdorf actually printed the title as Momens musicals. Few, surely, would disagree with John Warrack’s comment in the booklet notes for the reissue of some of Alfred Brendel’s recordings of Schubert (Philips Duo 465-061-2), that the publishers had used “a title whose nature and grammar [Schubert] is unlikely to have approved. These are more than ‘moments’, extending a thought, or playing with a phrase, harmonic idea or technical figuration, turning it into a poetic reflection”.

Like many a salon piece, most of the works on this disc are relatively brief (but how brief is brief? The pieces range in length, in this performance, from 10:50 to 2:07). But brevity is not the same as slightness. One thinks of great aphorisms or epigrams. Their brevity is an essential aspect of their power: – “For most of history, anonymous was a woman” (Virginia Woolf); “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm” (Churchill). In examples like these, and in Schubert’s short piano works, concision leads to increased impact, rather than to triviality or slightness.

Ingrid Carbone certainly doesn’t regard these ten pieces as in any way slight or as works produced without forethought. What is compelling about her performances, overall, is the way in which she balances the claims of melody and structure in her playing of these ten short, but pre-eminently mature, pieces. Her tempi are sometimes a little slower than we have become used to, but when this is the case, for the most part it seems to be part of a coherent vision of the music. When, for example, the march-like theme early in the C-minor Impromptu is presented as a kind of funeral march, it makes sense in terms of Carbone’s larger reading of the piece; when the march disappears, it is transformed into a beautiful consolatory passage. In the second Impromptu Carbone’s playing is beautifully fluid, though her precise placing of accents means that there is never any danger of the fluidity causing any loss of shape. By the end of this short piece [6:12] we have travelled a long way; the close is melancholy and the fluidity has turned crystalline in its precision. Carbone takes the third Impromptu gently, in both tempo and volume, so that it is a serenade which doesn’t force itself on the attention of the serenaded, but rather one which insidiously takes over the mind and heart. In the fourth Impromptu Carbone’s handling of the relationship between the two themes is beautifully effective, a confirmation of the respect in which she holds Schubert’s formal ideas.

Ms. Carbone is equally assured in the Moments Musicaux. In No.1 in C-major she presents, lucidly and without fuss, the complex rhythmic subdivisions in the writing; the result is smooth and limpid but with a sense of puzzles existing beneath the surface. There is a sense of scale which seems to belie the relative brevity of the score. In the Andantino in A-flat major which follows, Carbone respects the siciliano rhythm, but divests it of any kind of sparkle. She explores a landscape of profound misery, one might even say a condition of desolation, in which there is little sense of bitterness or protest; the tone, rather, is of an unrhetorical reconciliation with the inevitable end. (Given the date of this composition, it is hard not to hear in it Schubert’s response to the knowledge of his own approaching death). The third of the moments (!) has perhaps been played more often than most of its companions. Heard in isolation one might take its ‘bounce’ at face value (after all it was written in 1823), but heard after the Andantino in A-flat major, any ‘bounce’ in the writing inescapably sounds ironic, any hint of ‘joy’ or ‘hope’ undercut by the composer’s (and the pianist’s) sense of their ultimately illusory nature. Where the fourth piece in this set, the Moderato in C-sharp minor is concerned, it has to be conceded that Carbone doesn’t capture the quasi-Bachian quality of the opening quite as well as, say, Schiff and Brendel do. But in the middle section in D flat-major her playing has a rare beauty, and the ensuing return to the opening material is well-handled. The fifth of the Moments Musicaux, the Allegro Vivace in f-minor, begins with a percussive dactyl and its echo; accents on the beat are a repeated feature in the main body of this piece, essentially in a ternary structure, before the return to the earlier motifs. I have never found this one of the more interesting of Schubert’s short klavierstücke and well-disposed as I am to Ms. Carbone’s performances, she doesn’t do a great deal to persuade me that I have been guilty of a blind-spot hitherto. In the final Allegretto (in A-flat major) however, I was very impressed by the way Carbone built up (as the score requires) a lengthy melodic line from the short motifs with which the piece begins. Carbone’s cantabile playing is fine here, though I think it is the one occasion where her choice of a slow tempo does become relatively ponderous.

The recorded sound is excellent throughout (the sound engineer is Marcello Malatesta) and captures very well the timbral nuances of the Bechstein Model D played by Ms. Carbone.

Over the years there have been quite a few distinguished recordings of these ten remarkable pieces – names like Schiff and Brendel, Pires and Orkis or, further back, Schnabel and Fischer – come to mind. This new recording doesn’t quite merit a place in that exalted company. But it is certainly a very fine recording – among the very best new recordings of these works that I have heard in recent years; and, it should be remembered, this is only Ingrid Carbone’s second CD. Her first, Franz Liszt: Les harmonies de l’esprit (Da Vinci Classics, DVC 00144) I have heard only on a streaming service through my computer’s speakers, but that too sounds impressive. The very least one can – should – say is that Carbone is already a very accomplished pianist of real insight, and that she shows promising signs of becoming an even more remarkable and important artist. Carbone is an impressive young artist – and her abilities are clearly not limited to the piano. At the age of 21 she graduated summa cum laude in Mathematics from the University of Calabria. Since then she has taught mathematics at universities in Italy, given papers at mathematics conferences, and is Assistant Professor of Mathematics back at the University of Calabria. A quick Library search has revealed articles by her in well-regarded international journals such as Applied Mathematics and ComputationJournal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications and Journal of Approximation Theory. Carbone brings to her performances at the piano a mind which ranges beyond music. I suspect that her future career (as a pianist!) will be very much worth watching.

Opus Klassiek, June 2020

CD Review – Aart van der Wal

It was not Franz Schubert who invented the impromptu, but the Czech Jan Václav Hugo Vorísek (1791-1825). A contemporary of both Schubert (1797-1828) and Beethoven (1770-1827). And, not coincidentally, Vorisék also died in Vienna: on November 19, 1825. He also belonged to the echelon of composers and musicians attracted by the music metropolis.

Those ‘impromptus’, short piano pieces, were very popular with the Viennese audience. So much so that they quickly became an important genre. Obviously, Schubert’s music publisher did not miss that, so he arbitrarily renamed the ‘Klavierstücke’ offered by Schubert into ‘Impromptus’. Apparently in the expectation that this would positively influence the sales figures. Not so. Schubert was and remained a shadow composer for the Viennese audience and this ‘impromptus’ could not change that either. A fate that was also granted to the ‘Moments Musicaux’.

But not only the naming went under the chopping block: for example, the impromptu in G-Flat Major, the third of D 899, which became much later so famous, was transposed for convenience by the same publisher only a semitone higher, so that the original six flats could be neatly exchanged for only one sharp: the proud f sharp of G Major. Which, anyway, drastically changed the character of the piece. No one, however, was awake. The poor composer may also have agreed: ‘if only it sells’. Later, Brahms would also play an important role in this when he was commissioned to make strict edits to Schubert’s piano works for the leading publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel. He wouldn’t have had the feeling that he was moving on slippery ice back then, because “it could only get better.” Julius Epstein (1832-1926) also did it after Brahms, with of course a different result. Which also applies to  Walter Gieseking (1895-1956), the pianist who still speaks through his many recordings.
It was then still a long way in the direction of something so obvious to us as the “Urtext” editions, stripped of all kinds of interventions by third parties; usually with the best intentions.

However, one important question may be asked: what about the different interpretations from the  skilfully restored image of notes? The freedom that the individual artist allows himself or herself – and this certainly applies to these precious miniatures, true school examples of very successful ‘exercises’ in the small form – to bring this music to life according to his or her views? After all, there is no pianist who does not want to give it his own ‘interpretation’, whereby it is of course left to the listener whether he can associate with it or not. What is ‘responsible’ from a historical perspective often turns out to be a matter of perception in practice, although some would like to make people believe otherwise.

That interpretation remains – fortunately! – still a valuable attribute that can push the musical experience to new heights. This applies primarily to performances that we have come to regard as the top segment, with pianists of the caliber of Arrau, Brendel, Uchida, Lupu, Pires, Schiff, Perianes and Hamelin in the front ranks. And then there is that inimitable Sokolov who repeatedly succeeds on the concert stage to unfold a very idiosyncratic evocative panorama and whose extremely expressive, often even whimsical play seems to be detached from any (supposed) tradition and perhaps precisely because of it knows how to fascinate. Where I immediately point out that a live performance that is recorded for ‘eternity’ always remains that one live performance in which the concept is explored to the utmost limits and of which the result no longer resembles an interpretation thought up to the smallest detail. In the heat of the moment, with the inevitably associated pros and cons.

The “Impromptus” (D 899), the “Moments Musicaux” (D 780): oh well, it is just a naming that is completely in the shadow of what is without a doubt Great Music – yes, with capital letters!. Music that constantly captivates and whose chosen form perfectly matches some drama and lyricism and of which every note can make it without any further finery thanks to its faceted properties. Incidentally, not every pianist has understood this correctly, stuck with the misunderstanding that a consciously chosen own interpretation profile would need that finery. It can be demonstrated, the large mutual differences in interpretation shows it, that there is sufficient maneuvering within that inexorable given context without falling into fiddling.

Having said that, there is no question of a tradition determined by the same discographic history to which every newcomer should conform. Or in other words: the spell can strike again and again. As Ingrid Carbone proves with her new album, which was not without reason given the title ‘L’Enchantement retrouvé’: in this case the spell that could (had to?) be rediscovered in her eyes and which she managed to redeem with heart and soul.  Her composition studies may have helped her in what is ultimately one of the most beautiful aspects of her interpretation: rediscovering the notes and then giving it interpretative direction and staying away from what I theoretically call dry swimming and that ultimately brings nothing; and certainly not for the listener. This music should sound as fresh as dew and as clear as glass, with the accents set where, given the musician’s individual perception, they are the most eloquent. Accelerandi and rubati thus do not become a goal in themselves, but take shape with a suppleness that – it should be interpreted as paradox – is embedded in form. This has nothing to do with ostentation, showing, but with devotion, enthusiasm, intimacy and poetic metamorphosis. It provides a convincing exposé of what will always remain a fascinating landscape in my ears.

The sonority of the exquisitely voiced and tuned Bechstein grand piano (the model D comes from the Angelo Fabbrini collection) and the detailed recording prove to be the ideal carriers for this richly varied, magnificent game by this acclaimed prize winner (you will find the necessary on the Web).

Corrierebit, June 14, 2020

An excellent Schubert for Ingrid Carbone – Cesare Guzzardella

Ingrid Carbone interprets “the harmonies” of Franz Liszt

In her “other” life Ingrid Carbone is a mathematician and teaches Analysis at the University of Calabria; in her artistic curriculum, however, there are well exhibited a diploma with full marks in piano at the age of 19, international competitions and masterclasses with pianists of the caliber of Lazar Berman. And it is with a program entirely dedicated to the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) – which she considered “the arrival point of a pianist: a goal from a technical and interpretative point of view” – that the Calabrian artist celebrates her recording beginnings; the album entitled Les harmonies de I’esprit ctually combines some famous pages of the Hungarian composer with lesser known works of great value. It starts with the most virtuosic piece of the album, the famous Fantasia, quasi Sonata Après une lecture du Dante, the last piece of the second volume of the Années de Pèlerinage; it is “visual” music, which intends to transport the imaginary world of the Divine Comedy to the pentagram through a sort of musical fresco that Carbone paints at the tip of a brush between continuous expressive chiaroscuro, diluting the agogics in times perhaps a little too much restrained. Embedded in the diadem of the six Consolations is the Third one, which represents one of the greatest poetic and intimistic peaks of Liszt, and which is coupled with the following Liebestraum n. 3, the famous “love dream”, initially conceived as a vocal lied but then left speechless and with the only seal of a sublime music. Finally, the record closes with a page that is rarely heard, Légende n. 2: St. François de Paule “marchant sur les flots”, in which the miracle performed by the holy hermit Francesco da Paola is described, when he crossed the Strait of Messina walking on the waters after having spread his cloak; among fine motions of notes, resounding sounds and intense chord progressions, the worthy crowning of those “harmonies of the spirit” that entitle the disc.

Gothic Network, June 25, 2020

Da Vinci Classics. Schubert’s charm with Ingrid Carbone – Piero Barbareschi

Klassiek Centraal, May 29, 2020

★★★ Global Music Award for Schubert by Ingrid Carbone who also supplies Liszt 

Ludwig van Mechelen

The pianist Ingrid Carbone dedicates her recording debut to the sacred music of Liszt

In the life of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), mystical crises alternated with moments in which he followed behavior far from religious values, to which he seemed yearned for as a teenager. This at least until 1865, when he received tonsure and minor orders in the Vatican, also appropriating the title of abbot and focused his production mainly on the sacred repertoire.In previous years, however, he had provided noteworthy musical contributions and, in the context of this repertoire, moved Ingrid Carbone (born in Cosenza), an eclectic figure of pianist and university professor of mathematics, for her debut CD entitled “Les harmonies de l’esprit ”, recently published by Da Vinci Classics.

The disc opens with “Après une lecture du Dante” (Fantasia quasi sonata), which dates back to 1849.It is the longest and most elaborate piece belonging to the second volume of “Les Années de Pèlerinage”, the first of two dedicated to Italy, and refers to the Divina Commedia, describing the different moods of the souls of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (with a clear predilection of the author for the “infernal” passages).

The second piece, Consolations, six pensées poétiques (1849-1850), is also closely related to literature as it refers to a homonymous collection of poems by the French writer Charles Sainte-Beuve (pseudonym of Joseph Delorme), published in 1830, but there are also those who wanted to see as reference the lyric Une larme, ou Consolation by Alphonse de Lamartine, from the collection Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (used by Liszt in 1847 for a piano cycle with the same title).

We then move on to the famous “Love dream” in B flat major, placed at the end of Liebesträume S. 541, a triptych dated 1850, initially conceived as a brief collection of lieder, using the texts of Ludwig Uhland and Ferdinand Freiligrath, two Germans writers coeval of Liszt. In particular, the translation of the title of this third composition brings with it a great misunderstanding because the “dream” is not the one between two lovers, but consists in the memory of a loved one who no longer exists.

Closure with St. Françoise de Paule marchant sur les flots in E major, second of the Deux Légendes S. 175 (both written in 1863, with the first focusing on the preaching of St. Francis to the birds, in a style that anticipates Messiaen).The piece describes the miracle performed by the saint when he crossed the Strait of Messina by walking on the water, after the boatmen had refused to take him to the opposite shore because he did not have the money to pay for the transfer. Dedicated to his daughter Cosima, he was inspired by a painting by Eduard Jakob von Steinle (an artist belonging to the group of German romantic painters called “Nazarenes”, for their ascetic life and for the long hair that distinguished them), donated to Liszt by princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

As for the interpretative side, Ingrid Carbone deals with the different compositions with the precise intention of not exceeding in that virtuosity which, although undoubtedly one of the main peculiarities of the Lisztian production, often ends up blurring the rest, and aims at a whole series of shades, present but often ignored, also the result of in-depth preliminary studies. Moreover, it is no coincidence that the various passages are proposed in chronological order, to witness the evolution of Lisztian thought.

A real shame, therefore, that a recording that is not up to par, in part nullifies the interesting concepts underlying the work of Carbone, since the sonorities of the Bechstein model A-228 piano appear extremely redundant, to the point that only listening at a rather low volume provides, albeit incomplete, an idea of ​​the executive approach.
Lastly, we recall the brief but comprehensive accompanying booklet, edited by the pianist Chiara Bertoglio, another eclectic figure, as it ranges from music to theology, and therefore very suitable for drawing up introductory notes on passages that involve the religious sphere. In conclusion a disc that, beyond the technical problems, brings out a good and well-prepared musician, to whom we hope to continue in the best way a career already full of satisfactions.

MusicVoice, March 17, 2020

I segmenti incantatori di Schubert – Andrea Bedetti

Artistic judgment: 4,5/5

Critica Classica, June 7, 2020

“L’Enchantement Retrouvé” sophisticated rendezvous of Ingrid Carbone with Franz Schubert – Marco del Vaglio

Opera Teatro, May 12, 2020

In disco: Ingrid Carbone interprets Schubert, Davide Cornacchione



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