Schumann: Cello Concerto in A minor; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Fünf Stücke im Volkston; Adagio & Allegro, Op. 70

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WORKS: Cello Concerto in A minor; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Fünf Stücke im Volkston; Adagio & Allegro, Op. 70
PERFORMER: Anne Gastinel (cello), Claire Désert (piano); Liège PO/Louis Langrée
The gifted French cellist Anne Gastinel gives a searchingly introspective account of Schumann’s Cello Concerto. ‘The beloved dreamer’ (to use Tovey’s phrase) produced a score that’s unhelpfully littered with registral pitfalls. Gastinel’s game-plan looks to clarify its often dense textures, taking a broad, unhurried approach, while playing with watchful restraint and admirably secure technique throughout. It’s a welcome antidote to Mischa Maisky’s hair-raising DG account, where wild vibrato and manic emotional out-wringings of almost every melodic idea transform the piece into a tournament that Schumann certainly never envisioned.


At her best, Gastinel can be magically alive to the elusive, internalised character of the work, as her delicately understated treatment of the Adagio attests. Elsewhere, her performance could gain dramatic contrast and urgency from a more punchy, declamatory approach, particularly in the finale. Heinrich Schiff’s heroic resolve triumphs here, as he powers through its steely staccato passages, generating maximum impact at the heel of the bow. Gastinel’s less incisive style (even in the most ferociously difficult passages) is strikingly accomplished, however, and she plays the cadenza faultlessly.


The expertly drilled Liège Philharmonic provides attentive support under Louis Langrée. Only Bernard Haitink (directing the Berlin Philharmonic for Schiff) yields up more of the tightly woven inner fabric of Schumann’s orchestration, and in Naïve’s excellent recording, interplay between second violins and violas, and double bass, clarinet and bassoon lines are admirably focused and clear. Gastinel’s readings of the shorter pieces with piano are imaginatively done, but for playing of optimal authority choose Schiff’s penetrating Philips survey of these works. Michael Jameson