COMPOSERS: Schumann/Clara Schumann
WORKS: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54; Fantasiestücke, Op. 12; Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7; Konzertsatz; Three Romances, Op. 11; Nocturne, Op. 6
PERFORMER: Lucy Parham (piano) BBC Concert Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
CATALOGUE NO: CRS CD 238
The piano concertos of Clara and Robert Schumann make a natural coupling, but their juxtaposition calls into question Robert’s motives for adopting the exact keys (A minor, with a central movement/section in A flat) of Clara’s 1836 work in his own 1841 Fantasie (now the first movement of the concerto completed in 1845). Was his new wife’s composition a model and his a tribute, or did hers represent a challenge to which he responded with a subconscious effort of appropriation? The echoes of her works resound through his own – her Nocturne included here provides the ‘voice from afar’ in the eighth of his Op. 21 Novelettes, for example – but it would be taking it too far to suggest structural parallels between the concertos.
Lucy Parham is heard to best advantage in the solo pieces, especially Robert’s Fantasiestücke; although they may lack ultimate magic and poetry, these are thoroughly considered and eminently satisfying statements.
The performances involving orchestra are less convincing. There is some cumulative power in Clara’s F minor Konzertsatz, but Parham plays plainly in Robert’s Concerto amidst interjections of stylistic non sequiturs from the orchestra. Least rewarding is the sleepily respectful treatment of Clara’s concerto, a piece that must sparkle to be effective. David Breckbill