WORKS: Humoreske, Op. 20; Studies for Pedal Piano, Op. 56 (arr. Anderszewski); Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133
PERFORMER: Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Virgin 948 6252
The first thing I ever heard about Schumann, as a child, was that he was ‘a musician’s musician’. To judge from the relatively limited celebrations of his bicentenary, as compared with Chopin’s in the same year, he still is. Though deeply beloved of many pianists, few of his piano works have achieved true popularity. Thus there will be many music-lovers to whom most of the music on this very special CD will be unfamiliar.
Almost unknown, even to pianists, are the Six Studies for Pedal Piano, originally composed for an instrument fitted with a pedal keyboard, once used by organists for domestic practice. Seldom heard, even in Debussy’s beautiful arrangement for two pianos, the Studies have languished beyond the reach of mere two-handed pianists. Until now.
It is to be hoped that virtuoso Piotr Anderszewski’s ravishing and exceptionally clever new arrangement will finally deliver these enchanting, graceful, deeply touching pieces into the pianistic mainstream. Here, and throughout this treasurable release, he combines a superlative pianistic tonal palette with an immensely sophisticated rhythmic vocabulary, a rare capacity to illuminate Schumann’s polyphonic textures, and a gift for thematic conversation fit to make most performers, not excepting conductors, look to their laurels.
Schumann’s unique combination of intimacy and drama, like his quicksilver juxtapositions of vividly contrasting characters, has proved eternally elusive to all but a relative few. Of that few, none excels Anderszewski. His account of the beguiling Humoreske is Schumann playing of the highest class, as indeed is the rest of this recital. Bewitchingly compelling. Jeremy Siepmann