> Robert Schumann - Manfred Overture etc... [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Manfred Overture (1852) [11.07]
Piano Concerto (1845) [30.40]
Introduction and Allegro Appassionato or Konzertstück in G major Op. 92 (1849) [15.42]
Introduction and Allegro Concertante in D minor Op. 134 (1852) [14.40]
Rudolf Serkin (piano)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell
rec. 1960s, ADD


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This disc is focused almost exclusively on Serkin. This is the same Serkin whose exalted CBS versions of the Brahms concertos continue to command acclaim and affection. Serkin is just as strong here with the added advantage of Ormandy and his orchestra recorded in civilised sound a notch or so above that available from Serkin's partners in the Brahms works: Szell and the Clevelanders. The piano sound tends toward forward boxiness but nothing drastic. There is little in the way of really quiet quiets but the glowering attack of strings and piano is always something to relish. Serkin plays the aristocratic and sentimental grandee and yet has all the necessary spleen to make the music sparkle. If you want smoother, subtle and more refined sound as well as exalted interpretative values then opt for the Philips Bishop-Kovacevich coupling with the Grieg.

The Op. 92 work starts in wald-zauber hush with ripplingly decorative work from the piano and tender contributions from the orchestra. The orchestra also has some tempestuously emphatic work to do and does it fierily. The Op. 134 work is from four years before Schumann's death. I have yet to come across a commentator who has a kind word to say of the piece. Certainly it outstays its welcome over almost a quarter of an hour. While it lacks the overwhelming flow of the Piano Concerto it makes resourceful use of a singing idea of delicate sentimentality which steers just the right side of kitsch.

Couple these recordings with a vertiginously exciting Szell-conducted Manfred and then soak up the joy of these readings. This is moderated only a little by the acidity of the recording.

Rob Barnett

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