Schumann: Carnaval; Humoreske; Theme and Vatiations in E flat

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Analekta Fleurs de lys
WORKS: Carnaval; Humoreske; Theme and Vatiations in E flat
PERFORMER: Anton Kuerti (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: FL 2 3043
Perhaps Anton Kuerti’s serious, self-effacing style appeals to some people. He is as faithful as any pianist to the letter of Carnaval, but a lot of its spirit is missing. After all, Schumann was a hyper-sensitive Romantic, and while manic extremes were essential to his nature, none of his music should sound depressive, as Kuerti’s extremely slow, inhibited playing of Eusebius seems here. Pierrot is a dull dog too, while Coquette is rather straight and serious, and Chopin definitely too staid.

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Yet Kuerti is very strong in the opening and closing movements, which challenge both a pianist’s physical alertness and stamina, and when the music is relatively straightforward and not fanciful, he plays well. The most sharply imagined Carnaval on disc is probably Michelangeli’s, from a recital he gave in 1957.

In Schumann’s exquisite Humoreske Kuerti gets off to a very earthbound start, but improves in the later movements, although his sobriety makes Schumann’s contrasted sub-sections seem perverse rather than spontaneously inspired. Nikolai Demidenko’s recording is extravagantly lingering, but it does convey a wonderful sense of romantic yearning.

Kuerti’s final piece is the short set of variations that Schumann wrote two years before his death, tender and lovely, and none the worse for being modest.

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The 1979 recording is just about acceptable, but rather dry and boxy. Adrian Jack