WORKS: Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6; Fantasie in C, Op. 17; plus Mitsuko Uchida talks to James Jolly about Robert Schumann
PERFORMER: Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 478 2280
This ‘Prestige Edition’ includes a half-hour lecture by Mitsuko Uchida, James Jolly occasionally getting in half a word, in which she expatiates on why the two pieces she plays here are at the top of her Schumann list, while they are also violently unpianistic, primarily thanks to vast difficult left-hand leaps. This ‘interview’ is well worth listening to several times.
The other disc will prove indefinitely revisitable, for Uchida shows herself not only fully up to Schumann’s immense demands technically, but she is also deeply sympathetic to the fierce dislocations in his personality, as they are expressed in both these works, but especially in Davidsbündlertänze, with its 18 short sections mainly divided between Florestan, exuberant and aggressive, and Eusebius, gentle, forgiving; and with some of the sections alternating each of them.
I don’t know whether anyone can make this piece sound more of a unity: Uchida certainly goes for maximum contrasts, but then so I think does Schumann, and if the work comes across as fragmentary, perhaps that is the intended impression.
With a work as manifestly supreme as the Fantasy, Op. 17, it is absurd to say that there is any one greatest account. Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Horowitz, Maurizio Pollini, Murray Perahia and others are as great as Uchida, maybe, but I don’t think any of them, except perhaps Richter, is superior.
Uchida attacks it with tremendous vigour, but she is just as convincing in the exquisite third movement as in the swirling and galumphing first and second. With such insights from her both on the piano and verbally, this makes a most appealing pair of discs. Michael Tanner