Schumann/Schubert: Davidsbündlertänze; Wanderer Fantasy

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COMPOSERS: Schumann/Schubert
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Davidsbündlertänze; Wanderer Fantasy
PERFORMER: Anatol Ugorski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 437 539-2 DDD
The ‘Davidsbund’, or League of David, was an army of progressive spirits dreamed up by Schumann in his fight against the reactionaries. Davidsbündlertänze is a doubly provocative title since there is precious little dance music to be found in the work. Rather, it is a kaleidoscopic succession of pieces in contrasting moods, and when it first appeared Schumann appended the initials F or E to each piece, indicating the authorship of ‘Florestan’ or ‘Eusebius’ – the stormy and poetic sides respectively of his own split personality.

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There is clearly more of Eusebius than Florestan in Ugorski; but it is very unlikely that his exaggeratedly expressive approach would have struck a sympathetic response in Schumann. Simplicity is out: no tempo is maintained for more than a bar or two at a time, and almost every phrase in the slower numbers is mercilessly elongated. Nor, for all the self-indulgent freedom, is any sense of impulsiveness generated in the more dramatic pieces. Schubert’s highly unified Wanderer Fantasy suffers equally from this stop-go approach: its slow movement threatens to grind to a halt almost before it has begun, and the fugal finale sounds almost comically portentous. Perhaps some will find genuine vision in all this. In the immortal words of Sam Goldwyn, include me out. Misha Donat