Florian Uhlig continues his exhaustive 15-volume traversal of Schumann’s piano works with a masked ball of a disc, filled with the irresistible pulsing of waltzes and turbulent flights of imagination as the composer’s alter-egos vie for supremacy, Eusebius morphing into Florestan and back again. Uhlig’s category of ‘Character Pieces’ offers broad scope: many of Schumann’s solo piano compositions fall under that heading. For the pianist, it provides the chance to explore, alongside the famous Papillons, a personal selection of little-known miniatures, as well as the Three Romances, Op. 28 (the second a favourite concert work of Clara Schumann’s) and the startlingly quirky Intermezzos, Op. 4. The early waltzes provide surprise glimpses into the origins of the Abegg Variations, and the sequences of dances cast perspective on Papillons as a bridge between Schubert and Brahms.
Uhlig’s playing is in many ways exemplary: graceful, light of touch, strong of spring and in excellent control of voicing while navigating Schumann’s intricate textures. There is less overt bling about the repertoire here than in Uhlig’s ‘Young Virtuoso’ volume; the emphasis falls instead on nuance and the quasi-pictorial aspects of Schumann’s imagination. Uhlig’s approach is unsentimental and straightforward; but despite many beauties, it would be nice to hear slightly more highlighting of the sheer whimsy in Schumann’s writing, the warmth of his emotional life and the variety of those many colourful characters.