Jan Lisiecki interprets Schumann’s works for piano and orchestra conducted by Antonio Pappano

His account of the concerto’s opening movement is judicious, suggesting a coiled energy beneath the surface tenderness

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COMPOSERS: Robert Schumann
LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Piano Concerto in A minor, Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Introduction and Concert-Allegro, Träumerei
PERFORMER: Jan Lisiecki (piano)/Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: Deutsche Grammophon 479 5327

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Photographed for the liner-note in a series of soft-focus poses, the gentle face of Jan Lisiecki smiles out at us from a sunlit sylvan glade: is this how we are expected to view him? Yet quotes from that document suggest that Lisiecki has thought rigorously about the music in this collection of Schumann’s works for piano and orchestra, and in particular about the ambiguous relationship between soloist and orchestra in the concerto, where the former’s job is often simply to decorate melody from the latter.

This Polish-Canadian pianist may be just 20, but his account of the concerto’s opening movement is judicious, suggesting a coiled energy beneath the surface tenderness, and taking advantage of the music’s intermittent licence to dream; his touch has a chaste beauty, with no hint of histrionics. Fine support from Antonio Pappano and his Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia orchestra allows him to generate a sweet spell in the Intermezzo, and in the finale he finds a nice balance between intimate lyricism and bounding exuberance, asserting dominance as he romps playfully home.

The Introduction and Allegro Appassionato, Op. 92 is far from Schumann at his best – I like Lisiecki’s comment in the booklet notes that it’s ‘as if you’ve turned on the radio and you’re half way through it already’ – but he does at least manage to prevent it sounding like Mendelssohn, as it can easily do. And in his hands the rarely-performed Introduction and Concert-Allegro, Op. 134 works brilliantly: spectral at first, finally with a tormented nobility. The encore – from Kinderszenen – is a gentle reminder of the artistry which first put Lisiecki in the limelight three years ago.

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Michael Church