Schumann: Märchenbilder, Op. 113; Märchenerzählungen, Op. 132; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Romanzen, Op. 94; Adagio & Allegro, Op. 70

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Zig-Zag Territoires
WORKS: Märchenbilder, Op. 113; Märchenerzählungen, Op. 132; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Romanzen, Op. 94; Adagio & Allegro, Op. 70
PERFORMER: Vinciane Béranger (viola), Florent Héau (clarinet), Anne-Lise Gastaldi (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ZZT 010401 (distr. Discovery)
Robert Schumann’s shadowy doppelgänger ran constantly beside his ‘true’ self, as it did for ETA Hoffmann’s literary figure Kreisler. Duality was, after all, the mark of the man – Schumann publicly despised arrangements, but most of the music on this disc is heard in ‘second-hand’ revisions for alternative instruments. The Op. 94 Romances, for example, were intended for oboe; cellists co-opted the clarinet Fantasiestücke, and the Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, works well on cello or horn, underlining the point that transcriptions often cast fresh light on the music without necessarily betraying it.

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That can’t quite be said of these tired-sounding performances, which never penetrate beyond the externals of Schumann’s admittedly enigmatic intentions. Pianist Anne-Lise Gastaldi sounds diffident and over-cautious throughout. Vinciane Béranger (viola) is heard in the Fantasiestücke, the Adagio and Allegro and the three Romances. She has a pleasing tone and reliable technique, but her blandly unidiomatic accounts never fully engage ear or intellect, though clarinettist Florent Héau shows genuine allure and sensitivity in his contributions. EMI offers a superbly played and virtually identical programme (the Op. 102 Stücke im Volkston replace the Adagio and Allegro) featuring Mikhail Rudy (piano), Boris Pergamenschikov (cello), Gérard Caussé (viola) and France’s finest clarinettist, Michel Portal. It’s vastly superior all round. Michael Jameson