Ivan Moravec is a sensitive pianist who shows in his
playing a real affinity for Romanticism. The two Schumann pieces on
this disc were recorded eleven years apart. The later recording, 'Kinderszenen',
seems the more successful of the two. Moravec's control of keyboard
sonority is a marvel. He opts for a brittle tone for No. 4, 'Bittendes
Kind' and enters a truly interior world for No. 10, 'Fast zu ernst'
(here the shading is exquisite, the overall impression being that of
an improvisation). His pedal technique is demonstrated in the brief
and fleet-fingered No. 3, 'Hasche-Mann' and his loving touch is well
captured in No. 12, 'Kind im Einschlummern'. Perhaps most impressive
is 'Träumerei', as convincing an example of the Art of the Simple
as one is likely to encounter. Moravec is careful not to break the spell
with the onset of No. 8, 'Am Kamin'.
Some over-emphases are evident, however: No. 9, 'Ritter
vom Steckenpferd' suffers from an over-projected top line and the opening
of the final movement, 'Der Dichter spricht' is overdone.
The account of the Schumann Piano Concerto affords
many moments of joy. The orchestra's contribution should be saluted,
for Neumann inspires the woodwind/piano exchanges to attain the utmost
delicacy and intimacy. Moravec, however, takes a rather languishing
view of various parts of the first movement. The initial piano flourish
seems a trifle ponderous and Neumann nearly stops before the re-statement
of the opening (about 6'30). Neumann to his credit seems to want to
resist this tendency, and also seems to enjoy the details of Schumann's
accompaniment. The orchestral accents can be punchy and exciting. Curiously,
Moravec's cadenza for once makes this a gripping event in the structure
of the movement
One of my main concerns is the slow movement. Schumann
labels this 'Intermezzo' and the tempo indication is 'Andantino grazioso':
here it is more of an Adagio. However, there is some beautiful shaping
of phrases from the orchestra and the lead-in to the Finale is magical.
It is in the last movement that they seem to come together and Moravec
suddenly becomes the voice (fingers?) of experience. After (again) some
over-emphatic accents in the initial bars, where the tone becomes forced
and harsh, Moravec finally seems to enter the music and reveals the
qualities which can make him seem such a special interpreter, honesty
to the spirit of the text being paramount among them.
Pollini's 'live' 1989 performance on DG (with the Berlin
Philharmonic under Abbado, 471 353-2) offers a more consistent view
and he is entirely in sympathy with his accompanying forces. It is all
of a performance from the first to last and with every mote having its
place within the whole. The Berlin players rise to the occasion.
Despite being recorded at the same time as the Schuman
concert, the actual recorded sound on the Franck sounds insubstantial
in comparison. As a performance, however, this is a success. The conception
is Romantic but not syrupy (a crucial distinction in this composer's
case). Strings are lyrical and silvery in sound, and Moravec demonstrates
superb fingerwork towards the close of the work. A version to share
shelf-space with Clifford Curzon (London Philharmonic Orchestra/Boult,
Decca 466 376-2).
A thought-provoking record which, whilst not an unqualified
success, affords much pleasure.