Schumann: Piano Sonata, Op. 11; Humoreske; Bunte Blätter; Etudes symphoniques

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WORKS: Piano Sonata, Op. 11; Humoreske; Bunte Blätter; Etudes symphoniques
PERFORMER: Eric Le Sage (piano)


Eric Le Sage was the pianist on a double-album of Schumann’s late chamber music which I reviewed enthusiastically in May. Here, he tackles three of Schumann’s large‑scale solo works of the 1830s, plus the Bunte Blätter, or ‘variegated leaves’, that gather together shorter pieces written over a period of some 15 years (they include a rejected number from Carnaval, and a melancholy theme on which both Brahms and Clara Schumann later based a set of variations). When Schumann’s F sharp minor Sonata, Op. 11, appeared in print, in the spring of 1837, it bore a title-page with a dedication to his future wife, Clara. Schumann’s own name was conspicuously absent: instead, the music was credited to ‘Florestan and Eusebius’ – the names he habitually ascribed to the passionate and poetic sides, respectively, of his own creative persona. The Sonata’s Scherzo and Finale, in particular, are among the most unruly pieces he ever composed. Throughout this recital Le Sage is especially good at conveying the music’s impulsiveness, but he also responds well to the more poetic side of Schumann. These are altogether exceptionally sympathetic and rewarding performances, also including the five variations from the Etudes symphoniques, discarded by Schumann, and rescued by Brahms. Misha Donat