Schumann: Piano & Chamber Music VIII

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Alpha
WORKS: Allegro, Op. 8; Faschingsschwank aus Wien; Vier Klavierstücke, Op. 32; Drei Clavier-Sonaten für die Jugend; Etudes, Opp. 3 & 10
PERFORMER: Eric Le Sage (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 154

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During his final years, spent in an asylum near Düsseldorf, Schumann wrote piano accompaniments to Paganini’s solo violin Caprices. 

He had always been fascinated by the legendary violinist, and at the start of his career some 20 years earlier he had composed two books of piano studies based on the same pieces. Despite the title of Etudes de concert given to the second collection, they are more technical studies than concert-pieces, and they have Paganini’s virtuosity sometimes matched by a running left-hand part no less acrobatic than the original violin line unfolding in the right hand.

Like all the repertoire on these two discs, with the exception of the Faschingsschwank aus Wien (‘Carnival Jest from Vienna’), they belong to lesser known areas of Schumann’s piano output, and it’s good to have them in these scintillating performances. 

At the opposite extreme from the Paganini studies are three sonatas ‘for young people’, which Schumann wrote for his own daughters. They’re actually much harder to play than his more famous Album for the Young, and they carry out a new kind of large-scale cyclic form: the main theme of the first sonata’s opening movement reappears in the finale of the last sonata, bringing the series full-circle.

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Eric Le Sage’s playing here is admirably unaffected, as it is in the musically more rewarding Four Pieces, Op. 32. Perhaps the finale of the Faschingsschwank lacks an ounce of intensity, but this is nevertheless a rewarding collection. Misha Donat