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Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Clara Schumann’s Piano
Soirées musicales, Op. 6, Nos. 1 and 2 [7:09]
Souvenir de Vienne [6:45]
Sonata in G minor [17:18]
Three romances, Op. 11 [13:35]
Four pieces fugitives, Op. 15 [13:19]
Romance Op. 21, No. 1 [6:07]
Eugenie Russo (Streicher piano (1868))
rec. 22-26 January, 2007, Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente, Art History Museum, Vienna
PALADINO MUSIC PMR 0028 [64:13]

In 1870, Vienna’s legendary Musikverein opened to the public with two concerts. The first, in the Great Hall, was orchestral; the second, in the chamber music hall, starred Clara Schumann on the piano, as well as several other guests. Clara Schumann was playing a new piano made by the J.B. Streicher & Sons studio. This piano, in fact. Paladino’s Historical Instruments series reaches a high point with that same piano used for an hour-long recital of Clara Schumann’s own compositions. They’re so appealing already that the added historical interest - and the considerable warmth of the instrument itself - are icing on the cake.
 
In spirit Ms. Schumann was unsurprisingly similar to her husband, but I suppose without the added inspiration and audacity that mental illness can supply. There are whiffs of Mendelssohn in the plainspoken melodies of the Sonata in G minor, a dabble of Chopin in the wonderful Nocturne Op. 6 No. 2, and strong hints of Robert in the three Romances, which are more varied and deeper than their name implies. The first of the three could easily have been a late Brahms intermezzo, honestly. The Souvenir de Vienne is built around the Austrian national anthem composed by Haydn (now mostly remembered as “Deutschland über Alles”).
 
Pianist Eugenie Russo has kept a low profile on disc but she’s taught piano in Vienna for decades. Her playing here is expressive and well matched to the instrument. There’s a full set of Clara Schumann’s piano music on CPO, taking up three CDs. That set kind of sounds like a period piano, but only because it’s a modern piano with idiosyncratic sound engineering - I think. For a varied, skilfully played recital on a period instrument, this will be hard to beat.
 
As with the rest of this series, there are extensive notes on, and photos of, the instrument featured. Unlike a few other instalments I’ve encountered, the musical importance far outstrips the value to historical instrument junkies. It should appeal to everybody.
 
Brian Reinhart