Schumann; Brahms

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann; Brahms
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Helene Grimaud
WORKS: Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Hélène Grimaud (piano); Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Truls Mørk (cello); Staatskapelle Dresden/Esa-Pekka Salonen
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5719
Pianist Hélène Grimaud’s skill in devising interesting and original CD programmes deserves a couple of stars in itself. But even if her Schumann Concerto had come out on its own (there have been shorter CDs!) I’d still strongly recommend it. From her first two forte chords it is clear this is going to be something special. Every single phrase, change of mood or colour, sounds as though it has been lovingly rediscovered. But nothing strikes me as mannered or over-analysed. The first movement’s pensive central section displays a dream-like poetry, yet the purpose never flags; the piano-orchestra exchanges in the slow movement sound like genuine, open-hearted love-dialogues – nothing coy here – but the expression isn’t slapped on with a trowel. For once the waltz-finale seemed neither relentless nor over-long – all credit to Salonen

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for his part in that. Remarkably,

the last time I was so impressed by

a new Schumann Piano Concerto was in the mid-1990s when Grimaud teamed up with David Zinman on Erato.

This new disc also has three beautiful renditions of three very impressive songs by Clara Schumann. I’m not quite so carried away by Grimaud and Truls Mørk in Brahms’s First Cello Sonata – phrasing in the central quasi-Menuetto does seem a touch over-particular – nor with Grimaud as soloist in the Two Rhapsodies: impressive, but without a really strong sense of the overarching long line. Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough are almost ideally at home in the Cello Sonata (Hyperion, reviewed December 2005), as is Radu Lupu in the Rhapsodies (on Decca) – an older recording but still presentable, and with plenty of Brahmsian power and rapture. But this new release is definite worth the investment for the Schumanns.

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Stephen Johnson