Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor; Introduction & Concert-Allegro, Op. 134; Introduction & Allegro appassionato, Op. 92

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: Piano Concerto in A minor; Introduction & Concert-Allegro, Op. 134; Introduction & Allegro appassionato, Op. 92
PERFORMER: Lausanne CO/Christian Zacharias (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 340 1033-2
Many fine recordings of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto exist, but few of them address the concerns that lie behind Christian Zacharias’s conception of the work. Booklet notes reprint Bruno Walter’s detailed complaint that ‘Allegro affettuoso’ should describe the character not only of the three introductory bars but also of the main melody, which ‘traditional’ performances render in a plaintively detained manner. Zacharias does his best to set tradition right, and the shape and character of the first movement change accordingly. His is a consistently whimsical approach – even the normally dreamy A flat passage is swept up in an undercurrent of immediacy, and the pianist is uncommonly brusque with the ending of the cadenza. The second movement follows suit: it’s quick and restless, but doesn’t change mood for the passionate cello melody. In the finale Zacharias resists building heat and momentum in favour of elucidating ambling detail; I far prefer the ardent drive of Perahia’s fine version. Zacharias’s performance has an experimental feeling, but its failings can be attributed less to controversial decisions than to an excess of dedication. This becomes evident most clearly in the shorter works, where each phrase is so thoughtfully, expressively, and often inwardly moulded that one can’t quite grasp the overall shape of the pieces; by contrast, Perahia discovers a line through the heterogeneous materials. It won’t do to dismiss Zacharias’s deeply considered and committed performances, but they are more likely to stimulate the thinking of listeners who already know this music well than to impress newcomers. David Breckbill

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