Schumann: Piano Sonata No. 2

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor; Davidsbündlertänze; Kinderszenen
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67780

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Angela Hewitt has been recognised less for her efforts in the mainstream German Romantic repertory than for her Bach and Ravel, but this CD may well change that. Her awareness of counterpoint and her skill at putting it across suits Schumann’s colourfully woven textures to perfection. Davidsbündlertänze benefits from fine-pointed voicing, and her sense of light, springing rhythm keeps the élan flying, stopping the music from ever getting too bogged down in its torrent of ideas. 

Her G minor Sonata’s opening plunge is perhaps a tad sane, but the central movement’s rapt tenderness comes across with an exquisite stillness. Kinderszenen is balanced just right: never sentimental yet always touching and with a delicious sense of intimacy and fun, judiciously mocking its ‘Important Event’ but opening up some profound, sincere spaces when ‘The Poet Speaks’. 

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The only problem is the sound of the piano itself. Hewitt is famously passionate about her Fazioli instrument, and it certainly has some fine qualities: a rich, woody, mellow tenor register, for example. But the treble, while still woody, increasingly lacks resonance further up the keyboard, rendering high-set melodies more clunky than is comfortable. Since the recorded sound is very good, it does seem that the problem lies with the instrument rather than the acoustic. Jessica Duchen