RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Humoreske Op. 20 (1839) [30:13]
Studien Fur Den Pedalflugel Op. 56 (arr. Piotr Anderszewski) (1845) [21:31]
Gesänge der Frühe (Morning Songs) Op.133 (1855) [12:46]
Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
rec. Philharmonic Concert Hall, Warsaw, Poland, 14 March 2010, 11 August 2010
VIRGIN CLASSICS 9486252 [63.31]
This is a really wonderful Schumann recital and one of the most moving piano recitals I have ever heard. Piotr Anderszewski has an integrity and intensity, as well as an artistic originality, that one very rarely finds among classical pianists. He captures the schizophrenic mood-swings, the dreamy lyricism, the capriciousness and brooding melancholy of these works in a way that I have not heard before.
He starts his recital with the Humoreske which is one of the composer’s more complex early piano creations. The opening section is full of lyrical, tonal and rhythmic contrasts: the dreamy opening section is beautifully phrased and shaped while the ensuing episodes are full of playful invention and contrast. I found Anderszewski’s tempi in the second and fifth sections rather sluggish although he brought out the multi-layered textures of the piece and a lot of the musical detail that one can miss in concert performances. The third and fourth sections were elegant and lyrical, while Anderszewski brought a real intensity and commitment to the last section of the work. Overall, I found this a very thoughtful and moving performance of the Humoreske that seemed to get to the heart and essence of Schumann’s music.
The six studies for pedal piano were a set of canons originally written for an instrument which was a cross between a piano and an organ. Anderwzewski has made his own arrangement of the work for piano solo and, having heard this, I do hope that many more pianists will now play this wonderful work in the concert hall. The first piece harks back to the style of Bach and Anderszewski sets in motion murmuring contrapuntal lines but through the use of pedal underscores the romantic nature of the piece. The second piece is a cradle song which is quintessential Schumann and which is charmingly and elegantly played. Anderszewski’s playing of the next two pieces in the set is absolutely glorious: he deploys a ravishing tone and exquisite and beautifully judged phrasing to bring out the lyricism and tonal contrasts of these wonderful works. In the fifth piece Anderszewski uses deft ornamentation and and a crisp staccato to suggest an army of elves, goblins and trolls.
The Gesange der Fruhe or Morning Songs is Schumann’s last compositions for piano and it was written just before the composer’s tragic mental breakdown. Anderszewski’s performance of the first two pieces in the set is profoundly thoughtful and moving with the chorale melody and triplets of the second piece in particular conjuring up the mental anguish and turmoil the composer must have been suffering. Anderszewski creates a sinuous web with the demisemiquavers of the fourth piece of the set while the recital ends with the quiet and insistent resignation of the last piece.
This is a really wonderful Schumann recital and one of the most moving piano recitals I have ever heard.