- Audio CD (Mar 27 2001)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Hyperion UK
- ASIN: B000058UUV
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
|1. Fantasie in C major Op.17 - Schumann|
|2. Piano Sonata No.2 in G minor Op.22 - Schumann|
|3. Etudes symphoniques - Schumann|
I looked forward to this recording a great deal. I could think of no pianist better equipped to deal with the thorny technical demands of Schumann than Hamelin. He gives us a fiery and heroic effort. It is a spacious account, well conceived, wonderfully thought out and (as expected) brilliantly executed. But, it is on the spiritual and emotional plane that Schumann somehow eludes Hamelin; he comes close but stops short of the summit, and at times this most romantic of works sounds too deliberate, direct and literal.
However, the very qualities which undermine Hamelin in the Fantasy make for great performance of the G-minor Sonata. Hamelin makes a compelling argument for a work which has languished on the fringes of the literature. Rather ironically this sonata, its companion in F-sharp minor, Op. 11, and the Etudes symphoniques, Op. 13, all enjoyed great exposure at the turn of the century. Indeed, if one looks back to recital programs between 1898 and 1920, it is hard to find a program where one of these works (or the Fantasy) was not featured by artists ranging from Emil von Sauer to Percy Grainger--along with the ubiquitous Brahms Paganini and Handel Variations.
Little more needs to be said about the Symphonic Etudes, except that Hamelin dispatches them (in the 1850's revision) with ease. I would welcome this piano-slayer to turn his attention to the Brahms sonatas or just about anything else less over-played. And, despite Hamelin's strength in the sonata, he is very clearly outclassed by Argerich. This recording contains some very nice playing, but there are far better Schumann interpretations from Pollini, Richter, Cortot and Gilels. Hopefully, we also have a lot more to forward to from Arcadi Volodos if his Bunte Blatter is any indication.
As for the Fantasy? I will continue to enjoy Jorge Bolet's reading, but it is Arnaldo Cohen on Vox who gives what is perhaps my single favorite performance of this work; one which bears out repeated listening and is beautifully recorded and eminently affordable at budget price.
I enjoyed this recording and as a fan of Hamelin I was not overly disappointed even though some weaknesses in him are finally revealed. Nice to know that he is human; after all, even Horowitz had trouble with Beethoven. In all fairness, I could live without this one but wonder if Hamelin played it all much better before a live audience.
Let's start with the best performance of the album, Schumannn's second sonata. This is simply the best performance of the work that I have heard. While I still have extremely fond memories of a performance of this work by Bruno Leonardo Gelber in 1985, and own the work in a performance by Berezovsky, Hamelin's account simply sets a new standard. Throughout the whole of the work he keeps the tension, so crucial to Schumann, alive. This performance is truly dramatic, as is the level of pianism that is being displayed. Especially the last moment has to be heard to be believed.
While the etudes get a very symphonic performance, I had expected a little more. I often had the impression that Hamelin made every attempt not to overplay the technical aspects. I think he simply shortchanged himself. In addition, this interpretation lacks some of the continuity that characterized the Sonata. Here, Pollini remains my clear preference, with more edgy alternatives by Pogorelich and Barto.
The Fantasy, however, clearly is at 5 star level again Both drama and pianism are top notch. While Hamelin is at times more lyrical than Pollini, I do prefer the latter for his greater sense of architecture. Fellow Hamelin fans should not interpret these remarks as too dismissive since Pollini's original duo of Schumann's Fantasy and first Sonata can be considered among the ultimate in the romantic piano repertoire.
In all, a very worthwhile addition to Hamelin's stellar discography. I noticed that he has been playing other works by Schumann, like the Carnaval Opus 9 in concert and hope that those will also find their way to the recording studio.
PS. please disregard the comments by Leslie Gerber. Being a Stereophile reader I have been exposed to her garbage for years. In those days she clearly missed any decent musical knowledge, and on top of that, the type of equipment to give any type of informed judgement. Reading her insights here just illustrates that little has changed since then. Remember Basil Valentine, Leslie?