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COMPOSERS: Schoenberg/Schumann
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Amalie Malling (piano)Danish National RSO/Michael Schønwandt
Schumann’s concerto was written by a fine pianist for the genius to whom he was married; Schoenberg had little keyboard technique and composed, as it were, against the grain. Schumann’s first movement is a rapturously sprawling fantasia from which, despite the conciseness of the Andante, the work takes its tone; Schoenberg’s is a tight symphonic argument. Partly because he allowed himself the octave couplings rigorously excluded from his recent music, however, this concerto is one of Schoenberg’s most ingratiating serial works. In these rather ill-balanced performances (important detail, notably from the wind, is sometimes obscured) Amalie Malling seems more at home with Schoenberg; although Romantic in spirit it requires the accuracy which in the Schumann too often appears mere precision. What little metrical stretching there is sounds unconvincing, as in the over-deliberate start to the Schumann finale and the piano’s version of its rhythmically disjointed second theme. The opening of the Schoenberg, one of the most elegant melodies in his later music, lacks the floating grace of the best performances. The architecture of these fine works is thus more fully realised than their complex emotional content; there are better recordings of both (for Schoenberg I would still favour Brendel). Julian Rushton