WORKS: Fantasie in C; Papillons; Impromptus on a Theme by Clara Wieck
PERFORMER: Daniel Levy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ED 1043 DDD
The 1838 C major Fantasie is one of Schumann’s most ambitious and impassioned works. It was first conceived as a tribute to Beethoven – the first movement is, in part, based on Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte – and it is dedicated to Liszt, with whose work it shares a virtuoso character. Behind those public affirmations, however, it is an intensely personal meditation, which Schumann wrote at a time of desperation in his relationship with Clara – he described it as a ‘cry of love’. It is perhaps not surprising then that it should be a complex and protean piece, and the two performances here take different but equally thoughtful approaches.
Kissin is, as we have come to expect, robust and lucid, and from the dazzling opening moments we know that we are in for a thrilling ride of sometimes stark contrasts. Levy – in what will be a complete Schumann piano cycle – is more circumspect and introspective; the drama is almost understated, which can give rise to a potent suggestiveness. A choice between the two will depend on taste and on the couplings (Kissin’s accounts of five of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies are terrific), and one should bear in mind other recordings – particularly Pollini’s. William Humphreys-Jones