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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Robert SCHUMANN
Album fur die Jugend Op 68
Rico Gulda piano
Recorded December 2000 Bosendorfer Hall Vienna
NAXOS 8.555711 [76.09]

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First intended for his eldest daughter, Marie, Schumann’s charming pedagogic pieces, none much longer than three and a half minutes, have fared only indifferently on disc.

Faced with the simplicities of the writing pianists have tended to abandon musical discretion and, over-emotionalised and rubato-laden, performances have foundered on the rocks of adult sophistication. On Calliope CAL 9208 Daniel Blumenthal brings simplicity and directness, preferable to Angela Brownridge on Helios CDH88039, fine player though she is. Naxos now gives us Rico Gulda’s performance. There is a fine halo of sound around Gulda – the recording was made in Vienna’s Bosendorfer Hall – and there is no doubting his pianistic pedigree but throughout, deeply felt and considered though his playing often is, one feels the several over-emphases and hesitations, which can otherwise mar performances of this set.

From the Melodie that opens the first set and which finds him somewhat arch, through the somewhat facelessly played three-starred piece that is the third of the second book, one feels a lack of consistency in Gulda’s playing. He brings a real untrammelled brio to the Reiterstruck, No 23, but comparison with Blumenthal shows a slightly steadier tempo, less thunderous accents and a more convincing musical span. One can quibble with some of Blumenthal’s tempi but not with his understanding; by his side Gulda sounds precocious and raw.

Which is not to decry Gulda’s playing which is often thoroughly convincing; ultimately though it lacks Schumannesque acuity and never really reaches the state of true simplicity.

Jonathan Woolf


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