WORKS: Concert sans Orchestre in F minor, Op. 14; Preliminary studies and deleted movements for the Concert sans Orchestre; Fantasie in C, Op. 17
PERFORMER: Florian Uhlig (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.603
Florian Uhlig fairly bristles with musicianship, capturing to a remarkable degree Schumann’s fascinating emotional and psychological complexity.
In the elusive and still undervalued F minor Sonata, the impulsive Florestan and the ruminative Eusebius (Schumann’s twin alter egos) rub shoulders so often, and sometimes with such friction, that the effect approaches a kind of pianistic psychoanalysis. Phrasing and articulation are so acutely detailed that we perceive them as through a microscope.
But for one listener at least, for all the outstanding pianism, with its wide dynamic and colouristic range and its emotional immediacy, the detail is sometimes distracting, preventing the big overarching phrases from fully materialising.
The effect is too often improvisatory (in itself no bad thing) rather than symphonic. I felt this intermittently throughout the Sonata – including the middle movement, where the variations emerge as (albeit compelling) beads on a string, lacking sustained organic connection.
More consistently rewarding is the near-unwavering excellence of the great Fantasy, where Uhlig is at the top of his game. In its controlled passion, architectural command and subtlety of inflection this can hold its own against many of the best versions currently available.
The unique selling point here, however, is the central collection of studies and deleted movements for and from the F minor Sonata, all of which give rare and intriguing insights into the creative procedures of a great composer’s mind (two here receiving their first recorded performances). Jeremy Siepman