A statue by the French sculptor Eugène-Antoine Aizelin representing Goethe's Mignon
Schumann Requiem für Mignon op. 98b
Esoteric pick of the week: Requiem für Mignon by Robert Schumann.
Schumann is not an esoteric composer, but Mignon is definitely a specialized topic of interest. In Europe she is considered the most successful heroine of German literature.
Here in America? Not so much. I would guess that the majority of us don’t know how to pronounce Mignon. It’s basically like the steak. I’m not judging anyone. I am building a case for Mignon being off the beaten path and worthy of our consideration for a few moments.
The character is from Goethe’s masterpiece Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship. Ambrose Thomas wrote an opera based on the character and there have been other literary iterations of her character.
Regarding Schumann’s requiem in her honor, it is fantastic music. It’s subtle and understated in character but achingly beautiful. The requiem is a tribute to the literary character and is unique in that way. I’m not sure I can think of another piece of music written to honor the death of a fictional figure. Maybe Leader of the Pack or Dead Man’s Curve but those are, uh, different idioms than Schumann’s.
My preferred recording is conducted by Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon. How rare can this music be if DG produced it? That’s a valid point, but we’re talking about German music and a German company so I'm still going to call this piece a rarity.