Schumann by Lisa de la Salle

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

ALBUM TITLE: Schumann by Lisa de la Salle
WORKS: Kinderszenen; Abegg Variations; Fantasie in C
PERFORMER: Lise de la Salle (piano)


Immaculate in their textural clarity, virtuosic and elegant in tone, these are highly accomplished, keenly considered performances by an artist of conspicuous refinement. Alive to the quicksilver shifts of mood and character that can leave players adrift in Schumann, Lise de la Salle is near her best in the much-loved but frequently elusive Kinderszenen, whose fleeting emotions are forever demanding. The organic links that undoubtedly unify the Abegg Variations cannot obscure the fact that this, too, is a procession of miniatures, but here her characterisation may strike some as amorphous. There is also a pervasive monotony of phrasing (particularly in her use of near-identical time delays – what are known as agogic accents – to introduce successive phrases) that renders much of the performance disconcertingly predictable. With the epic expanses of the C major Fantasy, these distractions, and others, prove a serious liability. Here it isn’t the phrasing of bars, but the phrasing of phrases that must be achieved if the sheer size of this great drama (both structural and emotional) is to emerge with the requisite power and reach. And this is by no means only a matter of volume, though the comparative shallowness of tone here, for all its refinement, does strike me as disproportionate to the passion, depth and, yes, the fantasy of this monumental work.
 Jeremy Siepmann