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R Schumann: Einsam (Piano Works)

Nino Gvetadze (piano) (Challenge Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

R Schumann
Einsam – Arabeske, Op. 18; Kinderszenen, Op. 15; Kreisleriana, Op. 16; Waldszenen, Op. 82 – Vogel als Prophet; 3 Romanzen, Op. 28 – Einfach
Nino Gvetadze (piano)
Challenge Classics CC 72855   66:55 mins


This is, quite simply, gorgeous. Nino Gvetazde plays Schumann’s much-loved Arabeske, Kinderszenen and Kreisleriana, as though they flow spontaneously from her. Time is elastic, liberated from the tyranny of the pulse. Her intensely vocal approach recalls the principles of the Russian piano school, in that distances are measured as though sung, not through the handspan. The lyricism is exquisite, for example in the intimate close of the Arabeske. She is also alert to Schumann’s harmony, relishing all dissonances, and understanding their relative importance.

Individual pieces showcase Gvetadze’s fine control and layering of Schumann’s dense textures, creating a three-dimensional impression of the music: for example, in the sublimely guileless ‘Träumerei’, or ‘Fast zu ernst’.

The ‘Vogel als Prophet’, a single number included from Schumann’s Waldszenen, is an inspired inclusion, sinister, eldritch and chilling, as is the closing ‘Romanze’, a Clara Schumann recital favourite.

Gvetadze’s Schumann is more ‘Eusebius’ than ‘Florestan’ (to recall the composer’s self-described introvert and extrovert alter egos). But when fire is needed, she supplies it. Her approach to virtuosity recalls Clara Schumann’s teaching principles, eschewing empty passagework for crisp articulation and careful shaping. She can be impish and spiky, as well as emollient and lyrical.

The beautiful piano sound is another pleasure on this recording, full and warm, vocal in quality and balanced across the range. Some listeners may want a clearer pulse, a more evident ‘spine’ to the music, but I found this a wholly persuasive depiction of a mercurial Schumann, without an aggressive bone in his body.

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Natasha Loges