Schumann/Strauss

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann/Strauss
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Piano Concerto in A minor; Burleske
PERFORMER: Hélène Grimaud (piano); Deutsches SO, Berlin/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-11727-2 DDD
In 1984, the 15-year-old Hélène Grimaud won a Grand Prix de l’Académie du Disque with her debut recording of works by Rachmaninov. Now, eleven years on, she has found just the right spirit for Schumann’s Piano Concerto – a much recorded work if ever there was one. The pianist is never much more than first among equals, and the more intimate moments have the refined quality of chamber music. Grimaud is never afraid to take the lead, nor to press forward when she feels the music demands it, but she and the orchestra are completely at one. Even without the soloist the accompaniment would be remarkable, impeccably phrased, clean and buoyant.

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And how refreshing to have Strauss’s early Burleske as an unexpected coupling, starting brightly, the four sections merging into one another with complete inevitability. The dynamic range and the balance are ideal, here and in the Schumann, and the punctuating comments from the kettledrums are always well-judged. Grimaud’s fingerwork is precise and the virtuoso requirements hold no fears for her. I like Strauss’s anticipation of ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story (track 7, at 1:55). Wadham Sutton