ALBUM TITLE: Schumann
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Opp. 105, 121 & posth.; Romances, Op.94; Phantasiestücke, Op.73; Märchenbilder, Op.113; Mächenerzählungen, Op.132 etc
PERFORMER: Francois Leleux (oboe), Paul Meyer (clarinet), Bruno Schneider (horn), Gordan Nikolitch (violin), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Eric le Sage (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 121
This pair of discs contains virtually all of Schumann’s late chamber music – only the G minor Piano Trio of 1851 is missing. The two great violin sonatas, also from 1851, have long been part of the core repertoire, but a third sonata composed right at the end of Schumann’s career was suppressed by Clara Schumann and Brahms, and didn’t see the light of day until the mid-1950s. Two of its movements originated in a collaborative ‘greetings’ sonata composed in honour of Josef Joachim’s visit to Düsseldorf in 1853 (the scherzo was furnished by Brahms), and Schumann subsequently expanded his contribution to form a complete sonata of his own – a more hermetic work than its predecessors, but scarcely less beautiful. It’s been recorded on several occasions, though you’re still unlikely to encounter it in the concert-hall. The rest of the music here consists of sets of short duos intended for domestic performance, several of them finding Schumann exploring largely untried instrumental combinations. Their musical quality is unvaryingly high, and it’s good to hear them so sympathetically played, with the fine pianist Eric Le Sage acting as the linchpin throughout. Gordan Nikolitch’s performances of the violin sonatas are very impressive, too: impassioned playing, with colours imaginatively varied, but never exaggeratedly expressive. All in all, an ideal introduction to the world of late Schumann.