I don’t believe in ‘definitive versions’, because life moves on and musicians learn from their predecessors. Tradition is laziness, Mahler said, but it can also mean progress. I raved about Freddy Kempf’s Schumann disc (which includes Carnaval), then I was amazed at the reissue of the late
Youri Egorov’s Schumann recordings (May 2001, including Carnaval and Papillons); and Martha Argerich’s
Op. 12 Fantasiestücke remains, for its evanescent poetry, in a class of its own. You wouldn’t want anyone to copy her. Every lover of Schumann should also check out Paolo Giacometti’s excellent recording of the Fantasiestücke on an 1847 Streicher (ChannelClassics).
But this disc, recorded in 2000 when Lazaridis was 22, is special enough to be beyond comparison.
It gets off to a dull start, with a rather plain reading of ‘Des Abends’ and a cautious approach to ‘Aufschwung’. Then it takes off. ‘Warum?’ is acutely voiced, and the clean, distinctive tone of the Fazioli piano really speaks to us – quite different from Egorov’s fruity instrument or Argerich’s high-tension Steinway. ‘In der Nacht’ is fluid, dark and brilliant; ‘Traumes Wirren’ feather-light, with a wicked little rush before the final ritardando.
Papillons is absolutely perfect: alert, charming, with wonderful fingerwork. Lazaridis makes some bold decisions, too, like doubling the speed of the odd-numbered sections in No. 6. Egorov doesn’t do that, and it’s not in my Urtext; but I like it. This boy has a mind of his own.
There can’t be a better recording of Carnaval in the catalogue. As in most versions, ‘Chopin’ is taken slower than Schumann’s ‘agitato’ suggests, and surely ‘Reconnaissance’ should be lighter and faster than either Lazaridis, Kempf or Egorov manage. Perhaps modern pianos are too heavy. But as for the rest, I only wish I had a few hundred more words to list all that Lazaridis does so wonderfully well.