Florian Uhlig plays Schumann

Pianist Florian Uhlig performs Schumanns Piano Works, Vol. 8.

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Hännsler Classic
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 8: Carnaval; Davidsbündlertänze; Piano Pieces, Op. 124 – selection; Albumblatt III in A flat, Op. 99/6; Asch-Capriccio in B flat; Fantasia sopra un tema di quatre suoni in E minor etc
PERFORMER: Florian Uhlig (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.050

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Florian Uhlig, now well into his complete Schumann cycle, is a musician to his fingertips, with a sense of style and an affinity for the piano so natural that one forgets all about technique. Melodically, he could tell many singers a thing or two about inflection, and his buoyant rhythmic profiles and clarity of phrasing are blessedly free from the tyranny of metre. His delineation of Schumann’s dual personality – documented by the composer through his twin alter egos ‘Florestan’ (extrovert, impulsive, vigorous) and ‘Eusebius’ (introverted, reflective, lyrical, dreamy) – is very deftly handled, without recourse to exaggeration, let alone caricature. Indeed he exaggerates nothing, except perhaps (just perhaps) moderation – especially in the extravagantly quixotic Davidsbündlertänze, which lacks the theatrical formality and artifice of Carnaval (a fanciful masked ball, after all).

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These things are always very personal, but I can’t help feeling here, if only sporadically, that Florestan has been keeping closer company with Eusebius than is good for him or us. I miss the wildness, the danger, the sometimes near-chaotic energy, the manic ‘highs’. Part of this lies in the character (not the exemplary quality) of the pianism. Just as Schumann generally favoured the middle register of the keyboard, so Uhlig, it seems to me, tends to cultivate the middle register of the dynamic range at the expense of the upper. This is a matter not only of loudness, but of volume: of depth; of rhythmic punchiness. The seldom heard miscellaneous pieces, by contrast, are quite outstandingly well done. Jeremy Siepmann