Schumann Complete Piano Wks Vol 5
The Swiss-French pianist Cédric Pescia adds two further discs to his previous volume in Claves’s series of Schumann’s complete piano works. And in Vol 5 he admirably blends the familiar and unfamiliar. Yet, if his energy and enthusiasm are almost palpable, there is too little sense of counterbalancing poise, of calm as well as disquiet. True, he rightly makes Pater’s definition of Romanticism – ‘the addition of strangeness to beauty’ – central to his view, and in the wilder moments of the Novelletten you are made especially aware of a composer on the edge, ready in his own words ‘to sing myself to death’. Carnaval is, however, a disappointment: the start is rushed rather than maestoso, there’s a lack of rhythmic delicacy in ‘Reconnaissance’, ‘Aveu’ is more skittish than affectionate, and there’s a want of charm in the ‘Valse allemande’. Regrettable, too, is an unseemly rush to the finishing post, and, overall, Pescia hardly ranks among the most elegant dancers in Schumann’s kaleidoscopically shifting ballroom scene.
He is more successful in the early Impromptus, in the Albumblätter (although Schumann’s inspiration had started to fail at this point) and in the strange Gesänge der Frühe, morning songs that caused the ever-cautious Clara to throw up her hands in despair. Op 126 is alive with fleeting memories of Schumann’s beloved Bach but the Variations on a Theme of Schubert suggest brevity merely as brevity rather than the soul of wit. Chris Walton’s accompanying essay makes a vigorous, even cynical assault on the romantic legend of Robert and Clara (he equates them to Humbert and Lolita) and he refers to Carnaval as ‘a Viennese schnitzel laced with magic mushrooms’.
Both discs are well recorded and presented, even though they feature five pictures of the pianist and none of the composer. Further issues from Finghin Collins, who launched this series in fine and exuberant style, would be more than welcome.