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Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays R Schumann

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (Chandos)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Faschingsschwank aus Wien; Piano Sonata No. 3; Fantasiestücke, Op. 111; Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
Chandos CHAN20081   71:26 mins

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Schumann’s creative surge was both inexplicable and uncontrollable. During one particularly excited episode he reported to his future wife Clara Wieck: ‘Since yesterday morning I have written 27 pages of music of which all I can tell you is that while composing them I was laughing and crying with joy.’ It is the tantalising duality between spontaneous excitement and ensuring a strong sense of musical continuity that is perhaps the greatest challenge for the Schumann interpreter, and which Jean-Efflam Bavouzet synthesizes so memorably in this outstanding recital.

Bavouzet establishes his credentials immediately with a gripping account of Horowitz’s ‘edition’ of the Third Sonata (or ‘Concerto without Orchestra’), which climaxes in a moto perpetuo finale that the Frenchman somehow manages to inflect with washes of textural colour – the effect is like a series of fountains spraying notes into the air – without losing an urgent sense of forward momentum. His masterly reading of Faschingsschwank aus Wien similarly fuses flair and fantasy with a poetic gravitas that recalls Sviatoslav Richter in its compelling sense of structural imperativeness, while acknowledging affectionately Schumann’s enraptured asides along the way. Towards the end of his life, Schumann returned to the solo piano – at one point in the early 1840s he had felt inclined to ‘smash it’ as being incapable of fully conveying his ideas. The result is a relatively small yet cherishable series of works, two of which Bavouzet brings to life here with a radiant energy that utterly refutes the notion that Schumann’s creative powers were by now fast waning.

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Julian Haylock