Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, op.54 [29:42]
Violin Concerto in D minor [32:53]
Martha Argerich (piano); Gidon Kremer (violin)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
rec. Stefaniensaal, Graz, July 1992 (piano); July 1994, live (violin). DDD
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564-67716-1 [62:35]

No notes: just a track-listing. So what! Does the music stand up? It does. The Piano Concerto starts with an exclamation and continues with an assertively urgent pulse. This is vintage Argerich. Neither she nor Harnoncourt have any truck with the etiolated sighing Schumann. In place of wilting lilies the music is given an imposing momentum that stays in touch with romance (I, 4:33). If you have become impatient with Schumann readings that loll and meander then this is for you. The Piano Concerto is viewed from the same urgent perspective as the more inspiriting readings of the French Horn Konzertstück and The Rhenish. After this comes the Violin Concerto. This provides an unfamiliar complement – one work is a concert standard; the other still largely unheard or more often encountered on disc than in the concert hall. It is given a gripping performance with the same qualities found in the piano work carrying over without a tremor. This work does not have the beguiling substance and invention of the piano concerto but the music will lay a hold on your affections if you open your mind to something a little out of the way. Beside the Schumann cello concerto this stands higher. Interestingly the central Langsam shares the same ratio to its flanking movements as the Intermezzo does to the outer movements of the Piano Concerto. The haughty and a mite stilted Lebhaft finale connects with the manner of the Schumanns’ family friend Brahms but with a touch of explosive Polacca about it. Kremer is recorded with warm and close proximity. Perhaps, one of these days, we will hear Kremer in the ‘other’ Schumann violin concerto – the violin version of the Cello Concerto. This might serve to redeem a work which I would otherwise avoid. With admirably musical qualities this inexpensive disc will add savour to your Schumann collection. It can also serve as its centre-piece complementing the rather wonderful Schumann orchestral box from EMI.

Rob Barnett

Admirably musical qualities to be found in this inexpensive disc.