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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Adagio and Allegro Op.70 (1849)
Fantasiestücke Op.73 (1849)
Romanzen Op.94 (1894)
Sonata in A minor Op.105 (1851)
Märchenbilder Op.113 (1851)
Tabea Zimmermann (viola)
Hartmut Höll (piano)
Recorded Sandhausen, January 2001 and February 2003
CAPRICCIO 67 123 [62.03]


Warmly and sympathetically recorded this all-Schumann recital is one of lyric generosity. Zimmermann proves yet again that she is a violist of the highest gifts and Höll demonstrates, as if we didnít already know, that he is not simply a "singerís accompanist" (a distinction Albert Sammons once made between Gerald Moore and Ernest Lush) but an all-round musician of judgement and finesse. Together they reveal the glints and shadows of this music, most of it viola-arranged (only Märchenbilder was originally written for the instrument) that flourishes on taut melodic direction. The Fantasiestücke Op.73 were written for clarinet, the Adagio and Allegro for horn, the Romanzen Op.94 for oboe and the Sonata Op 105 for violin.

We can hear the level of communicative expression this duo can generate in the Adagio and Allegro. In the latter the viola is very occasionally covered by the piano but whilst the balance may be slightly misjudged (the recording set up may have something to do with it) the rapport is strong. When it comes to the Fantasiestücke the third is particularly graceful and full of affectionate lift. Itís this characteristic that strikes me about their partnership; take the Allegretto of the Sonata where their sense of lightness and elfin charm is pronounced. The vibrato is fined down and the music is drawn not so fleetly that there isnít time to phrase naturally. And in the Märchenbilder we can appreciate the dynamic gradients and sense of subtle tension imparted to the second (Lebhaft) and the "balance" between themes that these two musicians take such care to judge. Passagework is clear in the third (Rasch) and the last is a particularly interior affair with very dampened dynamics from Höll and a sense of prescient introspection.

This is an accomplished recital Ė poetic and reflective, lissom and alert. Maybe the acoustic smudges things here and there, as Iíve suggested earlier, but nothing really damaging occurs. Certainly nothing to distract pleasure from these assured and splendid performances.

Jonathan Woolf


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