WORKS: 12 vierhändige Clavier-Stücke für kleine und grosse Kinder, Op. 85; Ball-Scenen, Op. 109; Kinderball, Op. 130; Album für die Jugend, Op. 68
PERFORMER: Eric Le Sage, Frank Braley, Denis Pascal (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Alpha 145
Even more than string quartets, piano duets tend to be written for the players above all to enjoy. The kind of pleasure they generate doesn’t always communicate itself quite so readily to any audience, no matter how intimate.
Of course there are exceptions, like Sony’s wonderful Lupu/Perahia Mozart-Schubert. But the first of these two discs isn’t of that company. Eric le Sage and Denis Pascal are fine, eminently civilised musicians, and they take conspicuous care over the four-hand works, whether the quirkily delightful Ball-Scenen or the very late and much duller Kinderball.
The performances are good enough to give an impression of the music’s worth, but fun and poetic fantasy are in relatively modest supply.
The recording gets up close to the players, but oddly enough that makes the results all the more emotionally opaque. Which is a shame, because I don’t know of any really recommendable alternatives in this repertoire.
Eric le Sage is better on his own in Album für die Jugend, yet even there he doesn’t manage to communicate much of the sense of delight Schumann clearly wanted to inspire in its young players – however impractical that may seem to anyone who has ever heard any of them done (too often the operative word) in a school concert.
Fortunately there is a good alternative here: Angela Brownridge on Hyperion’s cheaper Helios label – plenty of life and colour, and good recordings too. Stephen Johnson