WORKS: Bunte Blätter, Op. 99; Blumenstück, Op. 19; Variations on a Theme by Schumann, Op. 9
PERFORMER: Louis Lortie (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9289 DDD
A fascinatingly planned recital. The Bunte Blätter (or ‘Variegated Leaves’) are chippings from the Schumann workshop, though none the worse for that. They include a rejected number from his Novelettes, a gentle waltz that strayed from Carnaval and a piece originally destined for a set of revolutionary marches inspired by the Dresden Uprising of 1848. There is also a group of five Album Leaves; and around the time of Schumann’s final mental breakdown, Brahms and Clara Schumann each wrote a set of variations on the melancholy theme of the first of them. Brahms’s variations are full of hidden counterpoint and allusions: one of them recalls the second Album Leaf; and, in a touching echo of happier times, another manages to weave an early Romance theme by Clara, on which Schumann had himself once based a variation work. At the end, only the skeleton of Schumann’s theme remains, while above it fragmentary sighing phrases appear to dissolve in grief. It is an astonishingly mature work for a 21-year-old – a tribute from one rising genius to the fading star of another.
Louis Lortie is one of those rare musicians in whose hands everything sounds utterly natural and effortless, and he has been very well recorded in the Maltings at Snape. Altogether, a highly rewarding disc of some unjustly neglected music. Misha Donat