SCHUMANN Fantasie. Kreisleriana
Jean-Philippe Collard’s discography is weighted toward his compatriots, including much-lauded Fauré and Saint Saëns, but during the 1970s he made several interesting Schumann recordings that confirm his secure technical mastery, musical originality and deep feeling for this composer. His most recent La Dolce Volta disc, containing the Fantasie and Kreisleriana, allows us to hear his take on these two 1838 masterpieces, with their respective dedications to Liszt and Chopin, as well as to assess how Collard’s approach to Schumann has evolved in the ensuing decades.
Two striking features of this recording are the sheer beauty and health of Collard’s sound at the instrument, lovingly captured last year at the recently opened Cité de la Musique et de la Danse in Soissons, and the attentive foregrounding of Schumann’s vaunted ‘inner voices’. The former precludes excessive speed and stridency, while the latter has the subliminal effect of making these readings seem thoroughly rooted and substantial.
Rootedness, however, is not the first thing one listens for in Kreisleriana. One of the aspects that made Nicholas Angelich’s recent recording so fascinating was its willingness to explore the darkest, neurosis-infested corners of this mercurial work. Collard’s interpretation could stand as the diametric opposite. Certainly far from sunny, it nevertheless plots a progress that never seems willing to sacrifice clarity or coherence for the grotesque.
The full-blooded, torrential first movement of the C major Fantasie is largely straightforward, with a thrust that seldom slows for reflection. The notorious leaps at the end of the second movement are perhaps the sanest I’ve heard. Not precipitously fast, though no less exciting for it, they are prepared by an intense focus on the inner voices in the passages immediately beforehand, so that when the contrary leaps occur, they seem more an overflowing of joy, than an explosion of pianistic athleticism. Perhaps even more remarkably, the final movement eschews visionary mysticism, opting instead for a narrative directly sung, guileless, unaffected, yet deeply poetic. Here too, the inner voices are given full play in what ultimately is a very satisfying reading.