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Free Spirits (Yi-heng Yang)

Yi-heng Yang (piano) (Deux-Elles)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Free Spirits
Fanny Mendelssohn: Lieder für das Pianoforte; Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 18 in G, D894 ‘Fantasie’; R Schumann: Klavierstücke, Op. 32
Yi-heng Yang (piano)
Deux-Elles DXL1187   74:00 mins


To hear the  declamatory phrases of Schumann’s Op. 32 played on a fortepiano is to be transported into an early 19th-century parlour. Playing an 1825 original Graf, Yi-heng Yang brings pianistic light and shade to the work. Her dynamic approach occasionally reveals the fortepiano’s shaky intonation (particularly the Markirt und kräftig) – as is to be expected from an instrument nearly 200 years old. No. 2 (Äusserst rasch und mit Bravour) is handsomely shaped, the fast-moving semi-quaver figures rippling as evenly as though played on a Steinway.

Fanny Hensel – as she is referred to on this recording – wrote many Songs for Piano, in parallel to her brother Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words. Yang brings out the shimmering melodies in the rhapsodic Allegro moderato and ‘Wanderlied’ from Op. 8. There are some tuning issues in the Andante con espressione. The Schubert Sonata is probably the best-known piece here. As the composer’s last large-scale work, it is noticeably more harmonically and dynamically adventurous. Yang has impeccable attention to detail, bravely observing the fff (and ppp) indications. This is intimate salon music painted with broad brush strokes.

The recording highlights the various additional quirks in sound that come from playing an older instrument – the odd key depression and unexpected vibration might not suit all tastes, but ultimately add to the overall charm.

Claire Jackson

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