Schumann: Kreisleriana, Carnaval, Arabeske

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Kreisleriana, Carnaval, Arabeske
PERFORMER: Vassily Primakov (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Bridge 9300

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Now just turned 30, Vassily Primakov was a major prize-winner at the Gina Bachauer International Competition, among others, and on the evidence of this new Schumann disc it’s not hard to understand his success.

His performance of Kreisleriana, in particular, has all the impulsiveness and poetry the music needs; and at the end of the ghostly gigue that forms the cycle’s concluding number, Primakov very properly allows the music to disappear into a hole at the bottom of the keyboard without the slightest hint of a ritardando. (Schumann once advised Clara to append a couple of loud chords to ensure she got some applause, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting to desecrate his evanescent ending in that way.) 

For all the impressive qualities of Primakov’s playing in Carnaval (the rapid-fire repeated thumb notes of  ‘Reconnaissance’, for instance, are rendered with extraordinary clarity and lightness, and the ‘Paganini’ number is dashed off with dazzling brilliance), his performance of the work as a whole isn’t quite as satisfying.

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The portrait of Clara (called ‘Chiarina’) lacks passionate intensity, and there are moments elsewhere that find Primakov reluctant to maintain the music’s straightforward vigour, instead introducing dynamic contrasts that allow its momentum to flag.  But such occasions are few and far between, and this well-recorded Schumann recital is one that gives rare pleasure. Misha Donat