ALBUM TITLE: Schumann: Complete Piano Works, Vol. 7
WORKS: Klaviertstücke, Op. 32; Four Sketches, Op. 58; Studies in Canonic Form, Op. 56; Canon, Op. 124/20; Fugues, Op. 72; 7 Klaviertstücke in Fughettenform, Op. 126
PERFORMER: Florian Uhlig (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.032
The quantity of piano music that Schumann produced is starting to seem boggling as Florian Uhlig’s complete series reaches its seventh album. This time the theme is ‘Schumann and counterpoint’ – and while that might appear a drier-than-average exercise, full of canons, fughettas and studies, many of the pieces contain music of startling emotional power. Some here receive their world premiere recordings.
Schumann studied counterpoint intensively in the early 1830s and again in 1844-45 when he was recovering from a serious breakdown. Such musical exercises seem to have sustained him through some difficult times: the Op. 126 pieces in fughetta form date from 1853 and were published after he was incarcerated in a mental hospital a year later.
Much of this music features remarkable inward intensity and in some cases haunting and unsettling beauty. Prime among the latter are the Studien für den Pedalflügel Op. 56 (otherwise known as Studies in Canonic Form), in which he added a pedal to create organ-like sounds on the piano. These pieces require adaptation to succeed on a normal piano and Uhlig has made his own version, drawing out the considerable colours available on the modern concert grand.
Uhlig tackles all of this challenging repertoire with empathy and finesse. Even intellectual studies and student efforts emerge from his hands as expressive music first and foremost. The voicing is clear, the tone rich and energetic, the feel for nuance attuned with razor-sharp intuition.