Schumann: Fantasiestücke; Humoreske; Kinderszen; Romanzen; Waldszenen; Blumenstück; Arabeske

COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Claves; Alpha
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Fantasiestücke; Humoreske; Kinderszen; Romanzen; Waldszenen; Blumenstück; Arabeske
PERFORMER: Finghin Collins (piano)Eric Le Sage (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 50-2601-02; 098
There is an endless fascination

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about Schumann’s prolific piano

music, shoehorning into seemingly

simple forms the multiple personas

representing the introspective and

the extrovert sides of his personality

he called respectively Eusebius and

Florestan, or breaking the mould

altogether as the rift between the

two becomes more extreme. Hearing

so many of his works in sequence

makes for compelling listening, as

abiding as consecutive reading of

ETA Hoffmann’s short stories. And

if Finghin Collins’s programme

makes the greater impact of the two

starting-points for Schumann series

represented here, it is partly because

he ranges more widely.

Launching with the Op. 12

Fantasiestücke, Collins at first has a

long way to go to match the inward

poetry and tenderness of magisterial

Argerich and Perahia. Yet his fantasy

has its own fascination in the lighter

numbers – ‘Traumes Wirren’ dazzles

with deft, even articulation – and

the unrest of longer inspirations like

‘In der Nacht’ is ballasted by solid

consolation. A mere two years at the

end of Schumann’s first miraculous

phase gave birth to all the works

on this first disc; and yet how far

we seem to have come by the time

we reach the lopsided masterpiece

that is the Arabeske – starting, in

Collins’s careful hands, with a

haunting shadow-play of the daylight

Blumenstück which precedes it.

Familiar scenes of childhood and

forest life on the second disc are

overcast with melancholy, and he

asks troubling questions even of

the more outwardly conventional

‘Fantasy-Pieces’ from the other end

of Schumann’s all-too-short creative

life. If you prefer smiling with a sigh,

Lupu’s Kinderszenen and Arabeske are

certainly easier listening.

Eric Le Sage’s clutch of early

linked miniatures and whimsical

variations favours the more robust

side of young Schumann. Even given

the greater reticence of the piano in

this recorded picture, he’s clearly

ebullient Florestan to Collins’s

thoughtful Eusebius and makes his

biggest impact in the more rollicking

of the Davidsbündlertanze. Yet while

Collins leaves me wanting to hear

more, Le Sage quickly pales alongside

the more encyclopedic and mercurial

qualities of Richter and Perahia. It

was disingenuous of Alpha to package

everything in the name of Clara

– Papillons, after all, was dedicated to

Schumann’s three sisters-in-law – and

even odder to link that to a portrait by

Hippolyte Flandrin subjected to three

pages of learned art criticism in the

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booklet. David Nice