Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12; Humoreske, Op. 20; Toccata, Op. 7

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12; Humoreske, Op. 20; Toccata, Op. 7
PERFORMER: Paolo Giacometti (piano)
A most enjoyable disc from beginning to end, and if I make it a benchmark, it’s because it establishes a standard of sensitivity and intelligence in the period-instrument performance of Schumann’s piano music. The piano here is a Viennese Streicher of 1847, built a bit later than Schumann composed these pieces, but the sort of instrument he knew nonetheless. It has a lovely stringy sound – by comparison, the modern Steinway sounds like steel – but yields a wealth of colour which Paolo Giacometti exploits with obvious delight and complete naturalness. My only slight misgiving is that he tends to linger too long on certain strong beats in the Humoreske and the first of the Fantasiestücke. But he has no need for rubato of convenience, as his immaculate playing of the Toccata demonstrates. On a modern piano, the double octaves in the right hand during the development sound a bit freakish. Here they fly by easily. And towards the end of the piece, the accented jumps in both hands together are contrasted with the continuing figuration between them to tremendously dramatic effect. Of course, nothing will ever sound like Argerich’s matchless recording of the Fantasiestücke, with its extremes of imaginative brilliance and inspired madness. But if more sober, Giacometti is by no means less expressive, entering fully into the many moods of the cycle and evoking gentler aspects of Schumann which are equally valid. For the record, my favourite non-period-instrument recording of the Humoreske is Freddy Kempf’s on BIS, and of the Toccata, Youri Egorov’s on EMI. Adrian Jack