Schumann: Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 47; Piano Quartet in C minor

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Quartet in E flat, Op. 47; Piano Quartet in C minor
PERFORMER: André Previn (piano), Young Uck Kim (violin), Heiichiro Ohyama (viola), Gary Hoffman (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61384 2 DDD
The cover has a picture of Previn, and his name in big letters – those of his partners are tiny. As if to reflect the imbalance, the string playing is unusually reticent. Here, at least, it seemed, was a change from so many over-demonstrative or closely-recorded performances of chamber music. In fact the four musicians do play with very gentle consideration for each other, and for the music, though it may take a second listening to appreciate;even then, you might find theviolinist’s bowing a bit unsteady, though Young Uck Kim has a distinguished career.

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Schumann’s E flat Quartet isan inspired masterpiece, if lessstriking than his better-known Piano Quintet (though Schumann claimed to think it more effective). He wrote the Quartet in C minor when he was 18. It is demonstrative, often earnest, and not very long. But while Schumann once said that the middle section of the Minuet – which is really a scherzo – was his first piece to be truly Romantic, the music as a whole is not recognisable as his. Adrian Jack