Schumann/Liszt

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COMPOSERS: Schumann/Liszt
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Fantasie in C; Études d’exécution transcendante No. 5; Études d’exécution transcendante No. 8; Études d’exécution transcendante No. 10; Études d’exécution transcendante No. 11; Études d’exécution transcendante No. 12
PERFORMER: Evgeny Kissin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68262 2 DDD
The 1838 C major Fantasie is one of Schumann’s most ambitious and impassioned works. It was first conceived as a tribute to Beethoven – the first movement is, in part, based on Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte – and it is dedicated to Liszt, with whose work it shares a virtuoso character. Behind those public affirmations, however, it is an intensely personal meditation, which Schumann wrote at a time of desperation in his relationship with Clara – he described it as a ‘cry of love’. It is perhaps not surprising then that it should be a complex and protean piece, and the two performances here take different but equally thoughtful approaches.

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Kissin is, as we have come to expect, robust and lucid, and from the dazzling opening moments we know that we are in for a thrilling ride of sometimes stark contrasts. Levy – in what will be a complete Schumann piano cycle – is more circumspect and introspective; the drama is almost understated, which can give rise to a potent suggestiveness. A choice between the two will depend on taste and on the couplings (Kissin’s accounts of five of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies are terrific), and one should bear in mind other recordings – particularly Pollini’s. William Humphreys-Jones