Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Mahler symphony 6 Nott


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 

REVIEW
Plain text for smartphones & printers


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample


Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasiestücke, Op.12 [29:13]
Kreisleriana, Op.16 [35:43]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Theme and Variations in D minor (from String Sextet No.1, Op.18 in B flat major - arr. by composer for solo piano) [10:29]
Imogen Cooper (piano)
rec. Concert Hall, Snape Maltings, Suffolk, 23-26 July 2012
CHANDOS CHAN 10755 [75:32]


 
Imogen Cooper established her reputation playing Mozart and Schubert. Here she performs solo piano works by another composer whose music she has been closely associated with, Robert Schumann. The works chosen for this CD are the Fantasiestücke, Op.12 and Kreisleriana, Op. 16. These are tentatively linked in that they owe their inspiration, in a sense, to the author, composer and music critic, E.T.A. Hoffmann.
 
The Fantasiestücke (fantasy pieces), Op. 12 dates from 1837. It is a set of eight pieces which took its inspiration from a collection of novellas entitled Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier, written by E.T.A Hoffmann in 1814. Schumann dedicated the composition to the Scottish pianist Anna Robena Laidlaw, with whom he had had a brief flirtation. The eight pieces were given their titles after composition. They are in no way programmatic, rather their titles suggest the images each conjured up for Schumann. Both here and in Kreisleriana, Florestan and Eusebius, the fictional characters, who denote the duality of Schumann’s personality, can be recognized. Florestan represents the impulsive, passionate, bold and brash side of his personality; Eusebius, the dreamy, melancholic side.
 
Whether or not, as some modern scientific research seems to suggest, Schumann suffered from bipolar disorder, I am not qualified to say. However, I do feel that if works by Schumann such as these are to be successful, the performer needs to be able to portray the mood changes, or the Florestan and Eusebius of the composer’s personality. With Fantasiestücke, there is great poetry in Cooper’s playing. In the opening piece Des Abends, she brings out the beautiful melody in the right hand, shaping it with elegant phrasing. I love the way she points the left hand cross-rhythms, delineating the changes of harmony. Then the mood is changed completely in the next piece, Aufschwung. Here there is real drama, but hers is contained. Argerich (EMI CDM 763576), on the other hand, seems a little wayward, throwing all caution to the wind; her Aufschwung feels rushed. In Fabel, Cooper voices the opening chords exquisitely and, in contrast, the schnell section is capricious. These contrasts Cooper sustains throughout. Some may find her performance too measured, I think she strikes just the right balance. Perhaps she does not display the formidable virtuosity of Argerich, as in the scintillating fingerwork in Traumes Wirren, which is breathtaking, but I can forgo that. I also listened to Alfred Brendel’s recording (Philips 434 732). Interestingly, Brendel was her mentor and even though I am an enthusiastic devotee, I thought the performance somewhat staid in comparison, and I did not particularly care for his piano sound.
 
In Kreisleriana, once again the inspiration comes from the literary work by E.T.A. Hoffmann mentioned above. Its central character Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler is disillusioned by the apathy and indifference in the way the public receives his music. Schumann maybe identified with these sentiments. He decided to name the Op. 16 set of pieces after this fictional character.
 
He was certainly convinced that Kreisler was based on a musician named Ludwig Bonner, whom he got to know in Leipzig. Kreisleriana, a set of eight pieces, was composed in April 1838 in the space of four days. Schumann was in the midst of a greatly productive period, working in the white heat of inspiration. Yet, all the while, he was toiling against the background of his attempts to marry Clara Wieck being thwarted by her father.
 
Anyone recording Kreisleriana today is up against a vast field of competition; there is an abundance of very fine recordings. As a preliminary to writing this review, this week I have listened to wonderful performances by Lupu (Decca 440 496), Ashkenazy (Decca 470 915), Kempff (DG 471 312) and Anda (Testament SBT 1069). Cooper’s Kreisleriana can hold its own in the face of this stiff competition. Her tempi are perfectly judged, with excellent phrasing and superb dynamic control. Her interpretation is poetic, as in no. 5 (sehr lebhaft) and passionate, as in no. 7 (sehr rasch). Throughout she brings out the Florestan and Eusebius character of each piece. She clearly has a great affinity with this music.
 
The Brahms Theme and Variations were given to Schumann’s widow, Clara on her forty-first birthday in 1860. They are based on a solemn, melancholy theme. Cooper manages to capture just the right mood, emphasizing the dark hues. Her playing has great virtuosity and is highly polished. Placed between the two Schumann works, the Variations provide a very welcome contrast.

The piano sound (Steinway Model D (579 072)) is well-focused, and the spacious, airy acoustic of the Concert Hall, Snape Maltings is an excellent complement. Nicholas Marston’s booklet notes are informative, and we get the added bonus of a personal note by Cooper, herself, who states: ‘Duality, intermingling and juxtaposing identities, the dream world, the subconscious, wild humour, the supernatural, disguise, the outsider; such is the inner world of Robert Schumann.’ It is all here.
 
Stephen Greenbank
 

 

 


Experience Classicsonline