Schumann: Piano Quartet in C minor

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: MDG
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Piano Quartet in C minor
PERFORMER: Trio Parnassus; Hariolf Schlichtig (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: 903 1414-6
Those who believe that in his early years Schumann showed little ability beyond writing piano music of a derivative nature will find the

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19-year-old composer’s C minor Piano Quartet a revelation. Recorded here in a new edition by Joachim Draheim, the work presents many fascinating anticipations of his maturity, not least the canonic interplay of the Menuetto (with material similar to that of the Scherzo of the later Piano Quintet), and the impassioned viola solo that opens the slow movement. Although the variety of musical influences that permeate each movement are not fully digested, there’s sufficient originality to sustain one’s interest, and the performance is strongly committed.

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The augmented Trio Parnassus gives an equally persuasive account of the later E flat Quartet, fleet of foot in the scurrying passagework of the Scherzo and Finale, and producing a wonderful sense of repose in the yearning melodies of the Andante cantabile. However the 1975 Beaux Arts Trio performance on Philips remains preferable for bringing extra interpretative insight to each movement. Take the opening for example: although the Parnassus deliver a beautifully veiled tonal quality to the chords, the Beaux Arts create a greater sense of tension and anticipation of the ensuing Allegro. And for all the restrained beauty of Michael Gross’s phrasing of the slow movements’s gorgeous cello melody, Bernard Greenhouse’s subtle use of rubato is even more affecting. Erik Levi