Without question the most riveting recording I have heard of the Schumann piano concerto is this critically acclaimed version with Martha Argerich as soloist which is from a live performance recorded successfully by Teldec as if it was a studio recording. Argerich, Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe have taken a rather vivid, fresh take on this venerable warhourse, truly clearing some of the cobwebs in performance practice, by taking a more historically-informed approach. And yet it is an approach which doesn't forsake Argerich's intense, often quite dramatic, playing for which she has become well known. I disagree with a different customer reviewer who observed that this performance doesn't quite yield a "conversation between piano and orchestra", since she seems to have found excellent musical partners in both Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe who have no trouble matching her tempi. Having heard Argerich perform this work live and in several other notable recordings, I'd say that this one may be the best, simply because she has fascinating partners in Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, who've excelled in demonstrating Schumann's gifts as a fine composer of orchestral music steeped in great melodies, more so than in other recordings I've heard.
Most classical music fans interested in this recording will find equally impressive Gidon Kremer's impassioned, lyrical account of the Schumann violin concerto from a live concert performance, which regrettably remains obscure (However, I still recall a most vivid, lyrical live performance of it by acclaimed Greek violinist Leonidas Kavarkos with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra several years ago at Carnegie Hall.). Indeed, aside from Kavarkos's performance, I have heard this work before only via an earlier recording by a young Joshua Bell with Christoph von Dohnanyi conducting the Cleveland Orchestra which dates from the mid 1990s. Kremer's impassioned, emotionally intense performance, especially of the first two movements, may be the memorable I've come across, simply because he conveys through his playing the emotional anguish which Schumann felt as he was losing his grip on his sanity. Much to my surprise, the third movement is played slower - and I think more convincingly by Kremer, Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe than in other performances I've cited - as a true polonaise, emphasizing Schumann's affinity for Polish folk music. But I concur with another reviewer that this concerto is indeed a musical document of a tragedy - Schumann's rapid descent into madness - tracing the gradual unraveling of Schumann's skill in orchestration from the start of the second movement to the very end of the third, which seemingly concludes on such a subtle, unfinished note.