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Robert SCHUMANN (1810 - 1856)
The Complete Piano Works, Volume 9
Papillons, Opus 2
Sonata Opus 118, No. 1 in G major
Intermezzi, Opus 4
Sonata Opus 118, No. 3 in C major
Franz Vorraber (piano)
Recorded Frankfurt/Musikhochschule, Kloster Kreuzberg. ‘Papillons’ recorded 28/1/2002; all other items recorded live, 14/5/1999
THOROFON CTH 2521 [75.53]


Schumann originally provided the movements of his early ‘Papillons’ (composed 1829-1831) with a textual context, assigning each movement to a moment from the novel ‘Flegeljahre’ by Johann Paul Friedrich Richter. The novel concerns the romantic entanglements of the twins Walt and Vult who act as precursors for Schumann’s own pair of alter-egos, Florestan and Eusebius. But some of the movements were actually earlier pieces re-used and retro-fitted to the scenes from the novel and Schumann later dropped the whole unnecessary structure, leaving us with a sequence of twelve charming pieces.

The cycle of piano miniatures which Schumann called ‘Intermezzi’ was begun shortly after the completion of ‘Papillons’; each movement written during a lull in the composition of the Symphony in G minor. He says in his diary, ‘Every one of the Intermezzi sprang directly from life; only the last details are wanting. It has been a beautiful week: pure, gentle, calm and busy’ Whilst ‘Papillons’ are relatively common in Schumann piano recitals, the Intermezzi are rarer. Their inclusion here is due to the nature of this disc, it is volume 9 of Thorofon’s complete Schumann piano edition.

Complete editions of Schumman’s piano music on disc have been surprisingly rare. Peter Frankl, Karl Engel and Jörg Demus have all recorded cycles, but these are not common on CD. Thorofon’s new cycle is based around the young pianist, Franz Vorraber whose preparation for the recorded cycle involved playing the complete Schumann piano works in a series of twelve recitals; repeating the complete cycle on a number of occasions.

Vorraber’s pianism has an enviable clarity and rationality with a good sense of line. But I felt that he lacks that sense of manic intensity necessary for Schumann’s pianism. Though his playing is by turns poetic, dramatic and intense there is an overriding sense of rationality; I wanted to feel that the poetic moments were intensified, with more a feeling of changeability and capriciousness.

It does not help that in the studio recording of ‘Papillons’ the piano has an unfortunate tendency to sound hard and glassy in the upper register. In the other piece, recorded live rather than in the studio, Vorraber achieves a more, intimate confiding tone. This is particularly suitable in the two Sonatas, written for two of Schumann’s elder daughters. These are charming works and Vorraber does seem to catch their mood.

If you are looking for a recording of ‘Papillons’ then there are plenty of other recordings which I might recommend over this one. But if you are interested in decent modern editions of some of Schumann’s rarer works then this disc is quite satisfactory without being ideal.

Robert Hugill



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