> SCHUMANN Fantasie Plessis ADW7348 [CA]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Fantasie, Op.17; Davidsbundlertanze. Op.6
Herbert du Plessis (piano)
Recorded June 1995, Boulogne-Billancourt
PAVANE ADW 7348 [69.09]

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I have not heard Herbert du Plessis before. He enters the lion’s den with this repertoire, and does tolerably. He is not especially well recorded though, the piano sound is rather colourless with dynamics restricted within a boxy acoustic.

He has a decent technique to entangle Schumann’s complex writing; he also has poise and sensitivity. What he doesn’t have is a sense of Romantic rapture, nor the inhibition to project Schumann’s soul – these are studio-bound renditions. Equally earthbound is the composer’s ardour and flight-of-fancy that is enshrined in musical structures – expansive in the Fantasie, fleeting in the 19 sections that comprise the ‘League of David’ dances.

Du Plessis is over-respectful of the text. While incidental felicities warrant attention, restraint and literalness hamper the whole. When one thinks of, say, Brendel, Kempff, Curzon and Anda in this repertoire … well, du Plessis lacks an imaginative response both in phrasing and touch. Pollini’s new Davidsbündlertänze (DG) brings intellectual searching, not the most subtly engaging view, and his acoustic is rather blowsy – but he’s probing behind the notes. There’s little of that with du Plessis, who, on his own terms, makes a decent impression, but this is an uncompetitive release given what we already have. Try DG’s 4-CD Kempff set (471 312-2) for Schumann’s ‘world within’.

Colin Anderson

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