Schumannís later life was shadowed by physical and
mental illness, but the Novelletten come from an earlier, productive
period when he rejoined his future wife, Clara Wieck, after an enforced
separation due to her fatherís opposition to their intended marriage.
These short pieces reflect the optimism and crusading fervour of the
better-known Davidsbündlertänze, but it is open to
question whether playing all nine in succession is an altogether wise
choice for a live recital or, for that matter, a CD. It is, perhaps,
impertinent to say so, but a pianist of such accomplishment could, I
am sure, have given an excellent reading of, say, Carnaval,
plus a few of the Novelletten, in about the same time
period, and with greater effect.
The prevailing mood is up-beat, and a gloss of Schumannís
German directions Ė marked and strong, Presto, con brio,
very lively with much humour, lightly with humour, and so on Ė leave
no doubt that this music is not intended to search souls. It is, however,
light and witty, and Craig Sheppard is well equipped to keep it spinning
along with the necessary bravura. The playing is refined and expressive,
and the live ambience unobtrusive.
Blumenstück (flower piece) and Träumerei
(dreaming) from Scenes from Childhood are by way of being encores,
and reveal the pianistís sympathy with the composerís gentler, more
romantic mood. Both have long been favourites among amateur pianists,
and these interpretations reveal the subtleties that often lie behind
Schumannís piano works.