LISZT Piano Sonata SCHUMANN Kinderszenen (Joseph-Maurice Weder)
First impressions: a Liszt Sonata running to 33'19" – a bit on the slow side. Likewise Kinderszenen at 21'30". And as a coupling? Unusual. Relatively short disc time (54'51"). MDG, so the recorded sound is guaranteed to be demonstration class. Youngish Swiss pianist (b1988) described in the booklet as a ‘sought-after soloist’ whose ‘international career got off to a successful start when he won the prestigious Swiss Ambassador’s Award in London’.
So to the contents, played on a warm, mellow-toned 1901 Steinway Model D. Joseph-Maurice Weder’s view of the Liszt Sonata, presented as a single track, unfolds magisterially in some detail, but while his recording is clearly a carefully prepared studio affair, there are some things to be gained from a more measured reading of this great score. The build-up to the first statement of the noble grandioso theme is powerfully realised; there is time at the close of the ‘slow movement’ for a true ppp in the few bars preceding the fugue which, if lacking in energico, is articulated with transparency and played sempre piano until the transition from B flat minor to C major as requested. You don’t always get that. Nor the semiquaver rests Liszt inserts in the right hand a page or so later when the going has got a little tougher. On the other hand, Weder applies the handbrake rather too fiercely prior to those torrential presto octaves towards the end.
There is, too, much to admire in the Schumann, not least the intimate fireside atmosphere Weder produces with the help of his Steinway (‘Am Kamin’, for example, and ‘Fast zu ernst’). There is a welcome simplicity and directness to his approach despite a somewhat over-extended ‘Der Dichter spricht’. Nonetheless, whether the whole CD is a sought-after commercial proposition must remain a moot point.