Schumann: Abegg Variations; Fantasie, Op. 17; Faschingsschwank aus Wien

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Abegg Variations; Fantasie, Op. 17; Faschingsschwank aus Wien
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 443 322-2 DDD
Bennhouwer’s disc includes an oddity and a rarity. The oddity is a set of variations on Chopin’s first G minor Nocturne – a rather ill-conceived project which Schumann wisely left unfinished; the rarity, the Gesänge der Frühe, Schumann’s last completed piano work. Beenhouwer plays this rather uneven music, as well as the more familiar pieces in his recital, as though he cherished every note. His are not in any conventional sense virtuoso performances, but he gets to the heart of Schumann’s world. Even so, some of the composer’s late metronome markings are curiously slow, and it is difficult not to feel that the third and fourth of the Gesänge need to move a good deal faster.

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Ashkenazy’s latest Schumann disc is a disappointment. Needless to say, the early ‘Abegg’ Variations are played with dazzling brilliance; but the great C major Fantasy and the Faschings-schwank are rather strait-laced, and lacking a sense of direction. These are performances that sound as though they have been put together for the recording studio without having been allowed to mature on the concert stage. Decca’s hard, distant recorded sound makes for uncomfortable listening. Misha Donat