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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Papillons Op.2 (1830) [14:48]
Davidsbündlertänze Op.6 (1837) [34:06]
Thema mit Variationen WoO24 (Geister-Variationen) (1854) [12:30]
Album für die Jugend Op.68 (1848) [74:21]
Cédric Pescia (piano)
rec. La Chaix-de-Fonds, Salle de Musique, Switzerland (Opp.2, 6); Lausanne, Chateau Fallot (WoO24; Op.68)
CLAVES 50-2603-04 [61:28 + 74:21]


Pescia has recorded before  - you may have come across his Goldberg Variations though it’s thus far eluded me. Here he turns to Schumann in the second of Claves’ Complete Piano Works; the first volume was performed by Finghin Collins.

The second of these two discs is devoted to the Album für die Jugend. This is  played, as here, as part of a complete collection or, more often, a few of the movements are extracted. And it does certainly require a particular sensibility to deal sensitively and sometimes, where necessary, dispassionately with all of the ”42”. Pescia’s is most assuredly a sensitive traversal. His recording in the Salle de Musique, in La Chaix-de-Fonds is warm and rounded though it’s at a rather lower level than one is perhaps used to. His pliant and yielding tone is another point in his advantage. He takes care to caress the miniatures but not to overwhelm them. It’s a performance of tremendous malleability and obvious affection. 

A few pointers, then. The opening Melodie us gentle and hopeful; contrast Blumenthal (Calliope CAL9208) whose thoroughly no-nonsense phrasing comes as a cooling blast. Or indeed budget price Rico Gulda on Naxos who is even more spic and span than Blumenthal. In Wilder Reiter Gulda is defiantly martial, Blumenthal full of rhythmic snap and Pescia once again less forceful. He does bring out all the neo-baroque elements of No.9 [Volksliedchen] with panache – besides which Blumenthal’s staccati sound fussy and not quite to the point either. In the second of the starred (asterisk) movements we find Pescia’s malleability and tone colours very persuasive; Gulda’s attacks are hard in an echo-laden acoustic and he uses too much rubato; Blumenthal is almost jovially extrovert. The greater sense of subjective tenderness brought to bear by Pescia is evident throughout – though whether you might prefer a more brittle, less clement view is very much a matter of taste.

Papillons receives a similarly measured reading, certainly when judged against those titans of yore, Nat and Cortot. Occasionally one finds that for all its beauty Pescia’s tone can get just slightly brittle in fortes and the fat bass of his piano can sound uncomfortable (it would be interesting to know what Pescia’s “steed” is). Davidsbündlertänze confirms one’s impression that Pescia’s view of Schumann is measured and mellow. There are certainly moments when I wanted a greater degree of fire. Voicings can be a little passive – or at least too much so for my liking but entirely consistently so in terms of Pescia’s own performances. Still, this is very sensitive playing and will make a real appeal.

Finally the tragic Thema mit Variationen  - also known as the Geister-Variationen, a product of 1854 and written in a delusional state. It’s a work that brings out Pescia’s reserves of sympathy and for all the occasional strangeness and gaucherie of the writing it sounds tender and affectionate.

Given that Claves seem to swapping the young piano riders in their stable it’s too early for me to say on whose shoulders the third volume has fallen. But for his part Pescia has contributed warm and attractive readings.

Jonathan Woolf



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