Schubert: Four Impromptus/Piano Sonata in B flat

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Buchinder: Schubert
WORKS: Four Impromptus, D899; Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
PERFORMER: Rudolph Buchbinder (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88883717422

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Florian Uhlig, reaching the sixth volume in his epic traversal of Schumann’s piano works, takes us into memory-lane territory. So deeply embedded are the best-known pieces of the composer’s Album for the Young in the consciousness of anyone who learned the piano as a child that it can be easy to forget what terrific music it is. Indeed, Schumann set out to provide top-quality repertoire that could engage and entertain his children, and others, in their musical studies.

Uhlig treats the music of Book 1 (Für Kleinere – For Little Ones) with the seriousness it deserves, delivering plenty of drama in ‘Knecht Ruprecht’ and demonstrating just how songful and Schumannian pieces such as ‘Mai, lieber Mai’ should sound. The second book, at intermediate level, is perhaps less generally familiar, but it contains some absolute gems. Among them is a pastiche Song without Words called ‘Erinnerung (4 November 1847 – Mendelssohns Todestag)’ in which Schumann captures his late friend’s musical style to perfection while paying a tender, quietly distressed tribute to him.

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Uhlig’s playing is by turns raptly beautiful and full of energy – the ‘Kleine Fuge’, for instance, has a delicious bounce. He shows us just how Schumann’s affection for his children was reflected in empathetic creations that cede no musical inspiration to the relative simplicity of the technique required to play them. This recording is not only instructive, it’s a treasure trove of gorgeous music.
Jessica Duchen