Schumann: Kreisleriana; Études symphoniques, Opp. 13 & posthumous

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Solo
WORKS: Kreisleriana; Études symphoniques, Opp. 13 & posthumous
PERFORMER: Mark Swartzentruber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SLR 3
These are very good performances, if not quite the best available. In the case of Kreisleriana, Martha Argerich captures a mercurial quality which is special, and there are moments of tenderness which are more touching in Youri Egorov’s recording. Swartzentruber is not quite in their high-powered class – he’s a conscientiously sensitive, slightly fragile pianist – yet he does better than most pianists, many of whom are caught off-balance in the opening number, and if he stretches the fourth and sixth movements a bit further than they can bear, his unusually swift tempo in the final movement is welcome as well as true to Schumann’s marking of ‘Schnell und spielend’.

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With the Études symphoniques he follows Clara’s edition, which reinstates two numbers that Schumann jettisoned in his revision, and the five posthumous variations are added at the end, as on András Schiff’s recording. Since you can programme these in yourself if you like, this seems more sensible than lumping them together in the middle, as Sviatoslav Richter did, or dispersing them throughout the set, like Kissin. Swartzentruber lacks Schiff’s scherzo-like humour and lightness in the fourth variation and in the fifth he delays the start of each phrase a bit heavily. He’s not energetic enough in the eighth variation and doesn’t altogether rescue the finale from its tendency to become boring, which Schiff achieves by sheer energy and force of conviction. But these are slight shortcomings in what is, overall, a very well-judged account.

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The recording is quite well recessed and Swartzentruber is generous with the pedal, but the effect is natural. Adrian Jack