COMPOSERS: Robert Schumann
ALBUM TITLE: Schumann Piano Concerto
WORKS: Piano concerto; Introduction and Allegro appassionato; Introduction and Concert-Allegro
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano); Berlin Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67885
It takes some daring to record a work as familiar as the Schumann Piano Concerto in an interpretation that offers something very different from accepted ‘traditions’ – and all by taking Schumann at his word.
Hewitt, in her booklet notes, recalls playing the Concerto for the first time in a competition, aged 17. The conductor insisted on using Schumann’s own metronome mark for the last movement and she’s been convinced by it ever since. Now she brings it to us, accompanied by the empathetic Hannu Lintu.
We’re used to ‘authentic’ interpretations being fast, faster and faster still, so when one turns out slower – here, a lot slower – it takes some getting used to. But Hewitt and Lintu make it work: this waltz-like finale never sags and Hewitt’s touch, light and graceful, allows the work to unfold rather than gallop. The second movement is perhaps less convincing; it may indeed have been intended as an uncomplicated introduction to what follows, but there’s so much beauty, subtlety and originality in Hewitt’s first movement that the ear longs for commensurate poeticism.
The two rarer works for piano and orchestra are a treat – especially the Introduction and Concert-Allegro Op. 134. Written for Clara in 1849, it seems to disprove any theory that Schumann’s powers were on the wane at this ‘late’ point of his life. Hewitt and Lintu give its recurrent falling sixth a lovely, sensual scrunchiness.
Even if I didn’t wholly buy into the Concerto’s Intermezzo, this recording should be applauded for its passion, detail, courage and commitment.