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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Humoreske in B flat, Op. 20 (1839) [26:06]
Romance in F sharp major, Op. 28 No. 2 (1839) [3:26]
Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor (1832-5) [27:57]
Alicja Fiderkiewicz (piano)
rec. live, 22 August 2007, 7th Chetham’s International Summer School for Pianists
DUNELM  DRD0272 [58:00]
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Alicja Fiderkiewicz has been associated with Chetham’s for some years, formerly on the staff of the Keyboard Department, but now a member of the teaching faculty at the annual summer school for pianists. Her previous recordings have included a disc devoted to Chopin, one devoted to Szymanowski and one shared between Chopin, Franck and Hindemith.
 
Ms. Fiderkiewicz – a new name to me - is clearly a performer of stature, totally committed and prepared to take risks. Of course, this is a live recital and there are some passing imperfections. However, her involvement and passionate intensity carry the day. She also has a natural feeling for Schumann, admirably conveying his impetuosity, turbulence and mercurial imagination.
 
I turned to Andsnes in the First Sonata for comparison. His is a very fine performance, authoritative and cultured. Yet I feel Ms. Fiderkiewicz, while less immaculately controlled, gives more of herself. If clarity equals eloquence, then Andsnes is supremely eloquent. However, Ms. Fiderkiewicz lets go of the reins, risks everything, generates more heat and sounds more passionately involved. In the outer movements of the sonata there are minor blemishes - a small memory lapse and some smudging (also a tiny cut in the finale) – but this is a satisfying and emotionally rewarding interpretation of a flawed, loveable, technically demanding work. In the Aria second movement Ms. Fiderkiewicz finds poise and tenderness, while the scherzo/intermezzo has energy and temperament in abundance.
 
One less successful aspect of the finale is the rhythm of the second theme (bar 17). This needs very strict observation of Schumann’s numerous sforzando markings if one is to avoid giving the wrong impression on each third beat, and Ms. Fiderkiewicz is culpable here. Just occasionally I wished for a wider dynamic range, some pianissimos being a little too robust.
 
The disc begins with the Humoreske - a warm, involving performance encompassing the many mood changes of this demanding work. Again Ms. Fiderkiewicz is not afraid to let the music “lift off” to a dangerous extent. One instance is where Schumann marks “sempre più accelerando” just before the march-like section in D minor. Here she really does convey the vertiginous character of the music. The generally admirable Kempff (1974) sounds extremely careful at this point. One caveat concerns the slower sections, in which there is not quite enough contrast, and in which rather too much rubato (for my taste) contributes to a feeling of restlessness and short-winded phrasing. There are so many turbulent sections in the Humoreske that genuine repose, where possible, is very desirable.
 
The second of the Three Romances, Op. 28, which Ms. Fiderkiewicz played as an encore, is wisely placed between the two major works on the CD. At a flowing tempo, she observes the “semplice” marking and avoids sentimentality.
 
The recording is rather restricted, audience noise is minimal, and the notes are skimpy and not particularly helpful as far as the music is concerned: “There is no doubt that Schumann was an inspired romantic genius”. This should have been edited out and more space found for intelligent comment on the included works. Only one and a half pages refer to the composer and the music, compared with five pages about the performer - a biography, a list of her CDs and an excessive number of reviews culled from newspapers including the Financial Times and the Inverness Courier. Why not let these compelling performances speak for themselves?
 
Philip Borg-Wheeler
 


 


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