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’.