Schumann: Fantasiestucke Op. 12; Kinderszenen Op. 15; Humoreske Op. 20

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Ambroisie
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Fantasiestucke Op. 12; Kinderszenen Op. 15; Humoreske Op. 20
PERFORMER: Philippe Cassard
CATALOGUE NO: AMB 9961
The French pianist Philippe Cassard

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here pairs two of Schumann’s bestloved

piano cycles with one of his

most problematic, the Humoreske. It’s

an unusual combination – at present

there seem to be no matches in the

catalogue – and is rewarding for its

strong levels of character and contrast.

Cassard’s performances have

much to recommend them, too.

Most engaging of all are the warmth

and intimacy of his interpretations,

though throughout the programme

one feels that Eusebius is a more

assured presence than Florestan. The

Fantasiestücke emerge beautifully

characterised, with a lyrical, songful

tone quality and a fine emotional

range; I was particularly taken with

the obsessive quality Cassard imparts

to the repeated sighing semitone fall

in ‘In der nacht’ and his delicacy of

touch in ‘Traumes-Wirren’. Although

Richter (DG) goes that extra mile in

emotional scale, with a heart-rending,

unmatchable ‘Warum?’, this is a

personal, heart-warming performance.

Kinderszenen is a tad less successful,

the slower numbers sometimes

tending to get a little ‘stuck’ in terms

of flow; the Humoreske has its fine

moments, with Eusebian poetry

uppermost and the more outrageous

Florestanian flair slightly downplayed.

In this work, András Schiff’s live

recital on ECM remains on another

level in every way; but Cassard’s

gentler and more confiding approach

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has rewards of its own. Jessica Duchen