One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



  AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7a (1835) [23’30]. Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17b (1846) [30’24].
Francesco Nicolosi (piano); bRodolfo Bonucci (violin); bAndrea Noferini (cello); aAlma Mahler Sinfonietta/Stefania Rinaldi.
Rec. aSt Marcellino Church, Naples, Italy on May 25th-26th, 2004, bStudio 52, Naples Italy, on September 24th, 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557552 [53’54]


A superb disc that will, I hope, act as an introduction for many to the music of Clara Schumann. Sub-Robert this ain’t. Clara has a personality all of her own, at once more ‘open-air’ than her husband, and at times (concerto) decidedly Chopinesque. If there is one thing that runs through all 54 minutes of this disc, it is Clara’s sure compositional voice; there is a confidence here that assures the listener that all is in hand.

The dense A minor tutti that opens the concerto immediately impresses – big and dramatic, things of import are clearly afoot. The piano enters quite early; certainly earlier than expected on first hearing, that’s for sure - about 45 seconds in, in fact. Chopinesque filigrees are common (see above), and are wonderfully sensitively rendered by Francesco Nicolosi - the only male musician here, as the orchestra is all-female, as is the conductor. The recording allows for the frequent intimacy of expression to register, a trait particularly welcome in the Romanze second movement (essentially a Nocturne). Here Clara’s invention is at its height. It certainly seems to inspire Nicolosi, who shades melodies exquisitely including the right-hand octave melody around 1’50. Also noteworthy is the way, after extended solo piano, a solo cello emerges from the piano texture. A final surprise is the subtle and effective use of timpani roll (4’40-‘50).

A trumpet introduces the finale, a triple-time dance-like movement that is, unusually, the longest movement; 11’30 as opposed to 7’08 for the first movement and 4’52 for the second. The reintroduction of a slower tempo at around 6’15 is noteworthy and effective. This is a lovely movement – Clara even stretches her contrapuntal muscles, and piano-woodwind dialogue is a delight.

The Piano Trio appeared, if memory serves, on a BBC Music Magazine cover disc in around 1995/6. A disc on Hyperion’s Helios label couples it with Fanny Mendelssohn’s Trio (Dartington Trio, CDH55078). It deserves multiple-versions in the catalogue; if anything, it is an even better work than the Concerto - it dates from eleven years later. Nicolosi, Bonussi and Noferini (the latter two not even listed on the disc cover) work very well indeed as a team, as polished and responsive to each other as they are to Clara’s stream of inspiration.

There is hardly any gap between first and second movements - just a couple of seconds. Surely a few more seconds’ breather would have been in order, Naxos? Still, the ‘Scherzo’ (confusingly marked ‘Tempo di Menuetto’) is highly sweet. The Andante is a gorgeous utterance, but the tempo the players set is surely closer to an Adagio? Also there seems to be uncharacteristically stilted playing from Nicolosi at the opening - some accents are on the lumpy side. Could this be because the work was recorded in one day and there was not time for a retake? Tender interchanges later do actually banish memories of this, though. The finale is gentle, but includes the only real compositional miscalculation, a fugal passage that just sounds contrived.

Do not let that put you off, however. This is an important disc that I for one hope will introduce new listeners to this important composer.

Colin Clarke


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


piano music Vol 4


Songs of Love and Sorrow

Thomas Agerfeldt OLESEN
Cello Concerto

The female in Music




From Ocean’s Floor


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.