That Luiza Borac has established a reputation
as one of the finest interpreters of
Enescuís piano music today is beyond
doubt. Two impressive releases attest
to that; but it would be a mistake to
categorise her as Ďjustí an Enescu player.
This disc shows why.
with a delicately nuanced account of
"About foreign lands and peoples",
which does not overstretch the slight
moments of hesitancy within the writing,
as some pianists are tempted to do.
The second sceneís "curious story"
is perhaps told in a little strait-laced
a manner, as if to signify that actually
the teller - Schumann, rather than Borac
Ė finds it all a bit boring. The "catch
me if you can" moment runs away
with itself nicely, showing just how
deftly Borac can alter the mood. The
upbeat mood continues through vignettes
such as "Happiness" and "Knight
of the Rocking Horse". The "important
event" of the sixth movement conveys
much through its relative grandeur of
statement, just as the following scene,
"Dreaming" relies on pianistic
introspection for its effectiveness.
Borac does us the favour of not overplaying
the music, rather she leaves it with
a slight fragility.
The mood of the moment
dictates, almost by force, a pause before
proceeding to the homely and distinctly
German fireside scene. "Almost
too serious" and "Frightening"
initially seem cut from much the same
compositional cloth, as in them both
you can hear a childís wide-eyed sense
of wonder at the world around him.
The child falls asleep
in the penultimate scene through tiredness
and "the childís eyes cannot be
closed in a nicer way", according
to Clara Wieck in a letter to Schumann.
She commented too on the simplicity
of the set and the growth of her delight
as she played them. Much of their surface
simplicity is evident in Boracís playing,
as is delight in the music. A distinct
strength is that she integrates the
more famous scenes into the whole, rather
than separating them out as focal points
for attention. Above all though Borac
is mindful of the underlying mood of
seriousness that lurks within these
short pieces. Just listen to the lofty
thoughts expressed in the final scene,
"The Poet Speaks".
of Kinderszenen are legion, most
inferior by a mile when placed in comparison
with that recorded by Clara Haskil (Philips).
Haskilís own physical frailty seems
to register all too readily through
her playing, which achieves much through
not distorting the workís structure.
Lang Lang, in his recent recording for
DG, proves less effective in my view
because he seeks to make too much out
of music that should just be played,
and not subjected to over-conscious
The Etudes Symphoniques
comprises a set of sixteen studies and
a finale, although their existence in
this form took some time to transpire.
Originally, twelve studies were written
and published in various editions Ė
of which the 1834 is most commonly adhered
to Ė before Brahms and Clara Wieck released
four further variations and the finale
for posthumous publication. A major
problem for any pianist is one of structure
and overall shape of the piece in performance.
However, given that even Schumann admitted
much of the music was "pathos-laden"
and that he tried "to break up
whatever pathos there may be in them
by using various colours [Ö] a different
colour each time", the performer
must also consider the subtleties of
a nuanced palette too.
Borac, going by her
recording, favours a sober balance of
hues in the first half of the work,
painted within a broad tempo range too.
Yet the second half is more upbeat,
starting with the sixth variation, which
leads to a clearly articulated account
of the seventh. Faster tempi continue
to dominate much of the rest, even though
the clarity could be helped by more
distinct pedalling at times. Tonal balance
is also important, and Boracís Steinway
model D grand has a soft, rich lower
register which is usefully employed
against the crystalline quality of the
top range in appendix variation 5. Of
much stronger stuff are the three remaining
sections, with the finale proving notable
for its grand sweep and sense of lyrical
Should one be interested
in comparative readings, I would suggest
Ragna Schirmerís no less insightful
recording for Berlin Classics. It is
recorded with a different ordering of
the variations in marginally more helpful
sound quality. The liner-notes on Schirmerís
set are more in depth than those for
Borac, with alternative playing orders
suggested should you wish to programme
your CD player to explore them. Schumannís
Beethoven Etudes, WoO 31, - a
work closely connected with the Symphonic
Etudes - form Schirmerís companion piece.
Those new to Schumann
wanting Kinderszenen or those
keen to discover the comparatively lesser
known Etudes Symphoniques will
not go far wrong with Luiza Borac as
their guide. Given this discís special
offer price as an added incentive, it
is worth serious consideration, even
to sit alongside other versions of choice
you might own.