This recording of Schumann is the result of a wide-ranging, multi-facetted artistic process, imagining different angles of interpretation through, most notably, the symbol of the hermaphrodite, a mythological figure, both masculine and feminine, both broken and unified.
It echoes naturally the poetry of Schumann’s “double”, the “doppelgänger”: Eusébius and Florestan.
Here, two cycles respond to each other: the Kreisleriana and the Chants de l’aube, to which is added the piece Widmung (initially a song by Schubert transcribed by Liszt), designed here to be a keystone.
To shape Eusébius, the tender, the luminous, the poetic, seemed less evident than to take the dark roads of Florestan which made themselves more immediately accessible.
It is the Schumann, described by Roland Barthes in his text Rasch, an extract of L’obvie et l’obtus (‘The responsibility of forms’): ” In the Kreisleriana by Schumann I hear, to be perfectly honest, no notes, no theme, no illustrations, no grammar, no sense, nothing that might help one to put together any kind of intelligible structure to the work. No, what I hear are beats: I hear that which beats in the body, which beats the body, or even better: this body which beats (…) The beating of Schumann is maddened, but it is also coded (by rhythm and tonality); and it is because the madness of the beats stays within the boundaries of a recognised language that it is ordinarily overlooked (If one can judge by the interpretations of Schumann). Rather: nothing can determine if these beats are suppressed by the great number who do not wish to hear them, or those, overwhelmed by just one, who can then hear only that. One recognises here the very structure of a paragramme: a second text is present, but actually, like Saussure listening to anagrammatical verses, I am the only one to hear.”
However, along the way, if we understand the madness of the beats as being the negative of tenderness, we can however “experience” – find Eusébius – and even reach the Liebeslied or Widmung, the song of love. There, RaRo speaks: He is the third personality invented by Schumann, (the contraction of his first name and that of his wife Clara) his best part, that in which he allows himself to be shaped by love.
The two cycles which record different aspects of Schumann’s life, respond to each other: The Kreisleriana is a youthful work inspired by the literature of E.T.A Hoffman, but also a declaration of love to Clara; and the Chants de l’aube present themselves as his swan song, a work written before he threw himself into the Rhine.
In the words of Brigitte François-Sappey, taken from her referential work, Schumann :
“The Kreisleriana is a emblematic cyclothymic work, of the double and of madness”. And further on, “All the clinical signs of cyclothymia find their worn out counterpart in the Chants de l’aube . The encephalogram will therefore be almost aligned, and the last throes will be lost in cavernous emptiness. The Kreisleriana appears to be the chronicle of an announced death; Les Chants are almost a death in real time.”
Let us come back to the figure of the hermaphrodite: it represents the pair of opposites put together. This “fractured” but unified character, is put into relief by Kintsugi, a Japanese art which consisted of repairing broken porcelain and ceramics with golden lacquer. It is this golden thread which appears in the film made by Gaultier d’Urbin and the photos taken by Anne-Lou Buzot.
The art of Kintsugi “says” that each broken object can be beautified, the cracks do not need to be hidden. This philosophical art aided my rehabilitation after an accident in 2017: run over by a car, I had, amongst other injuries, a broken collar-bone.
The vital necessity of speaking, singing and telling the tale of this fracture through the music of Schumann became evident very quickly after this event.