Schumann - Six Fugues on the Name B‑A‑C‑H, Op 60. Six Studies for Pedal Piano, Op 56. Four Sketches for Pedal Piano, Op 58
Thomas Trotter (org)
Regent REGCD347 (66’ • DDD). Buy now
Played on the Ladegast organ of Merseburg Cathedral, Germany
It was in 1845, during one of his periodic bouts of depression, that Schumann became gripped by what he called Fugenpassion. His obsession with Bach and the academic disciplines of counterpoint, canon and fugue seemed to have had a benevolent effect on his mental health. He and Clara hired a pedal piano. Opp 56 and 58 were the result, followed – after a break to complete his Piano Concerto – by the six magnificent B‑A‑C‑H fugues described by David Gammie in his absorbing booklet essay as “a great fugal symphony, a journey through varied landscapes and emotions of darkness and light”.
Thomas Trotter has chosen the Ladegast organ in Merseburg Cathedral presumably because of its combination of Baroque and Romantic pipework. What on the surface might appear to be a forbidding, completist and scholarly programme proves to be as enthralling as it is diverse, revealing an all too rarely heard side of Schumann’s genius. Trotter, as usual, displays his mastery of tonal colouring but there is also a rhythmic vitality that upstages his competitors in these works (for instance, the daringly fast second of the B‑A‑C‑H fugues and the magnificent concluding double fugue) and, on occasion, a certain swagger, as in the best known of all 16 pieces, Op 56 No 5 in B minor.
Superbly captured by producer/engineer Gary Cole, this is another welcome addition to the fruitful collaboration between this small-but-classy indie label and its impressive soloist. Jeremy Nicholas