> Schumann - Piano Music [TB]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasiestücke, Opus 12
Papillons, Opus 2
Carnaval, Opus 9
George-Emmanuel Lazaridis (piano)
Recorded 25-25 October 2000, St Philip's Church, London, SW16
SOMM SOMMCD 024 [72.11]


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The young Greek pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis is one to watch. For this is an excellent Schumann recital, well judged in matters of phrasing, tempi and articulation.

Schumann has a special character as a composer of piano music, and he devoted the earlier part of his creative life wholly to this genre of composition. Although he wrote splendid works, such as the sonatas and the C major Fantasie, which adopt larger structures, his significant achievement was in the newer field of shorter 'mood' pieces held together across a longer time-span by a common theme. There is a special challenge to the pianist in performing this music; namely to project a unity within the context of the diversity of imageries that Schumann necessarily offers.

If Papillons feels less of a whole than the other works recorded here, that is surely because of the nature of the music, which has rather less tension and subtle inter-relationships. In short, it is not as successful a piece. It takes an artist of the greatness of Claudio Arrau (Philips), for example, to really make this music sound compelling.

No such doubts arise with Lazaridis's performance of the Fantasiestücke or Carnaval. In the former he is at his best when the rhythms are pointed: the opening number, Des Abends is very fine, with some particularly well judged nuances of dynamic. The flowing intensity of Aufschwung is more difficult to bring off, admittedly, and Lazaridis chooses a sound basic tempo as his point of reference, even if the voltage is lower than the ideal. These observations perhaps reflect the experience of the whole eight movement work, though special mention might be made of the fifth number, In Der Nacht, in which the atmosphere is keenly felt.

Carnaval is the best known of these three pieces, of course, and one of the pinnacles of the 19th century piano literature. Lazaridis moves the music along from number to number with some telling and subtle changes of focus, and deserves high praise. In fact he achieves Schumann's intended aim, that the effect of the whole is rather more than the sum of the parts. Occasionally as in the beautifully observed character study, 'Chopin', the performance might have been more strongly articulated, but this is a minor cavil, since this is very enjoyable performance, by a fine pianist.

The recording is truthful and the acoustic atmospheric, while the Somm production standards are high, including useful notes and detailed cue points. It is also pleasing to find that a Fazioli piano was used. The tone quality is second to none.

Terry Barfoot

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