Schumann: Kinderszenen; Kreisleriana; Davidsbündlertänze; Arabeske in C; Papillons; Vogel als Prophet from Waldscenen

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: Kinderszenen; Kreisleriana; Davidsbündlertänze; Arabeske in C; Papillons; Vogel als Prophet from Waldscenen
PERFORMER: Fou Ts’ong (piano)
These recordings, made in 1989, were previously issued by Carlton, and it’s good to have them back in the catalogue. There is some quite beautiful playing here, with Fou Ts’ong’s warmth and humanity shining through all the performances. In Kinderszenen he captures perfectly the emotions of childhood: the exaggerated significance of the event depicted in ‘Wichtige Begebenheit’, the tender reverie of the famous ‘Träumerei’, the hypnotic lullaby of the child falling asleep. Ts’ong is impressive in Kreisleriana, too, conveying both the music’s capriciousness and its poetry very well. It is true that he cannot quite match the impetuosity and charisma of Martha Argerich, or the dazzling virtuosity of Maurizio Pollini’s fine recording (both DG), but in its own terms, his is a deeply satisfying account. Ts’ong strikes me as less successful in the Davidsbündlertänze, which sometimes lack impulsiveness and restlessness. It’s here, too, that his rubato, coupled with a tendency to begin each piece under tempo, threatens to become a mannerism. The erratic rhythm is all very well in the third number of the cycle, which Schumann wanted played with a degree of clumsiness, but elsewhere the music seems to call for greater simplicity and urgency. Ts’ong is already rather lingering in the opening bars, with their exuberant ‘motto’ by Clara Wieck; and he doesn’t really communicate the impatience of the fourth number, or the sweeping drama of the ballade-like piece that inaugurates the cycle’s second half. My current favourite among recordings of this wonderful work is András Schiff’s – a performance that provides more tautly-sprung rhythms, and also responds very well to the intimate side of Schumann’s dual creative persona. But Ts’ong’s recital, which also contains unselfconsciously poetic accounts of Papillons and the C major Arabeske, offers much to enjoy. The recording matches the warmth of the playing. Misha Donat