Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A Minor Op. 54 (1845) [30:33]
Introduction and Allegro appassionato in G major, Op. 92, for piano and orchestra (1849) [15:48]
Introduction and Allegro concertante in D minor, Op. 134 for piano and orchestra (1853) [13:49]
Clara Wieck SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Concerto Movement in F minor for piano and orchestra (1847) [13:09]
Oleg Marshev (piano)
South Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Ziva
rec. Alsion, Sonderborg, Denmark, 3-7 August 2009. DDD
The Schumann Piano Concerto is one of the great concertos of the 19th Century. The composer was not interested in virtuosity for its own sake - although the concerto is technically very difficult - but was more concerned with expressive and poetic musical content. Schumann originally wrote the piece for his wife, Clara, who was the leading female concert pianist in Europe. Many of the world’s most distinguished pianists have since recorded the concerto including Lipatti, Arrau, Richter, Michelangeli, Argerich and Lupu.
The exponent in this recording, Oleg Marshev, is clearly a pianist at the top of his game. He navigates the technical demands of the concerto with flair and ease and uses a considerable range of articulation and tone colour to highlight the poetic and expressive contrasts.
The composer marks the first movement Allegro affettuoso (tenderly) signposting the expressive qualities. Marshev’s handing of the opening cadenza was muscular and confident. I found the ensuing Allegro slightly rushed and thought it lacked some of the expressive qualities of say Arrau or Lupu. Marshev could also have made more of the mercurial contrasts between the sections - going into the animato section of the first movement. However, the interplay between piano and orchestra was excellent and much of the passage work brilliantly handled. The andante middle section of the first movement was expressively and sensitively handled. The cadenza struck the right balance between technical brilliance and expressive poetry and led into an exciting and exhilarating coda.
The playing of the second movement was graceful and limpid. The dialogue between the pianist and the orchestra was extremely good with some beautifully balanced and nuanced playing. The third movement Rondo is despatched with aplomb. He was clearly on top of the pyrotechnics and passage-work and there was beautiful and delicate articulation and phrasing. I missed some of the playful characterisation that one finds in say the Richter or Argerich recordings and the third movement coda was a little careful and sluggish for my taste. Overall, however, this was a very fine account.
The G major Introduction and Allegro was the best part of this recording. Marshev seemed to capture its intense romanticism and imaginative flair. The interplay between piano and orchestra was particularly good in the opening section with Marshev accompanying splendidly. The ensuing Allegro was limpidly phrased and characterised and captured the heroic and romantic Byronic associations extremely well.
The D minor Introduction and Allegro concertante belongs to Schumann’s late period and was written at the same time as the wonderful violin concerto. Marshev had the considerable virtuoso demands well under his fingers and there was some most lyrical playing. Overall, however, I was not as convinced by Marshev’s interpretation of this piece and did not feel there was a compelling musical narrative.
Clara Schumann’s concerto movement in F minor was intended as birthday present for her husband and may have been inspired by Chopin’s 2nd concerto which is in the same key. Clara did not finish the work (she only wrote 175 bars) and the work was completed by the Dutch pianist Jozef De Beenhouwer. The music is closer to Chopin’s idiom than that of her husband although it comes across as a rather anaemic and insubstantial work. Marshev was well on top of the virtuoso passage work and his performance was well executed.
Jessica Duchen has produced a good set of programme notes for this recording setting out the background to each work and a sound analysis of the music.
Robert Beattie 

Beautifully phrased and well executed. 

see also review by John France