Schumann: Piano Sonata No. 1; Humoreske, Op. 20

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Humoreske, Op. 20
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67618

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Sonata, fantasia, humoresk: what’s in a name when Schumann’s lyric muse lets inspired ideas loose in such profusion? Never have they sounded easier or more natural than in Angela Hewitt’s seemingly effortless but always adventurous interpretations.

It’s not surprising that in her liner notes, gossipy on background and amiably personal on the music, she tells us she finds the F sharp minor’s second-movement Aria ‘one of the greatest moments in all the works of my repertoire’; her poise and amplitude lend it an unearthly beauty.

Hyperion are bold to unleash another first-rate pianist on this work after Nikolai Demidenko; Hewitt is less temperamental, not so obviously volatile in switching between the extrovert Florestan and introspective Eusebius sides of Schumann’s personality, but more anchored.

Refusing to be hurried, she holds our attention as no other pianist has, in my experience, quite managed in the giant rondo of a finale, and she makes the repeat of the first movement’s Allegro vivace sound like its own development.

There’s similar variety in the more hallowed returns of the Humoreske’s most striking inventions; again, in the Chinese boxes of this equally individual work, such passages sound completely new second time round, and everything hangs together.

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Radu Lupu is a touch more mercurial here, but Hewitt’s well-grounded personality still lets everything breathe as it should, and it all adds up to a surprisingly organic whole. Handsome in fortissimo and mesmerising in sotto voce, the piano range is well served by Hyperion’s Italian-based recording. David Nice