Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Violin Concerto in D minor WoO 1 (1853) [32:12]
Piano Trio No 3 in G minor Op. 110 (1851) [29:13]
Isabelle Faust (violin); Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello); Alexander Melnikov
Freiburger Barockorchester/Pablo Heras-Casado
rec. Teldex Studio, Berlin, Germany, May, August, September 2014
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 902196 [61:37]
This is the start of what promises to be both an interesting
and a groundbreaking project to record Schumann’s three concertos, not
including his arrangement of the Cello Concerto for violin. These recordings
will be coupled with the three piano trios and each of the members of
the trio will take the lead in one of the concertos. Original instruments
will be used throughout. Volume 2 is due in the autumn of 2015 with
volume 3 to follow in 2016.
The Violin Concerto has had something of a mixed past. The fruit of
Schumann’s late period when he was suffering with his final illness
and plagued with depression and delusions, it was completed in October
1853, just a few months before his suicide attempt the following February.
The Concerto was then, for whatever reason withdrawn. It has been suggested
that Clara and the young Brahms deemed it unworthy of publication and
performance. Joachim, for whom the Violin Concerto was intended, only
saw the score after the composer’s death and never performed it. It
was even omitted from the revised edition of Schumann’s complete works.
The score then languished in a Berlin library and it was not until 1937
that Georg Kulenkampff and the Berlin Philharmonic gave the premiere,
recording it shortly afterwards.
The Concerto, whilst composed in a style less poetic and passionate
than his early masterpieces, still has a lot to offer to soloist and
audience alike. The work is arguably more virtuosic than his other two
concertos and this despite the lack of a first movement cadenza. Its
real heart is in the deeply moving slow middle movement. Here the beautiful
violin motif is the one that haunted the composer during his final illness
— the theme which he said was given to him by spirits and which he was
to incorporate into his Theme and Variations in E flat Major for
Piano ‘Geistervariationen’. This is followed by a short bridging
section which leads in to the dance-like final movement. I have always
liked this work, especially in John Storgårds’ fine performance with
the Tampere Philharmonic and Leif Segerstam (ODE 879-2), a performance
hard to beat. Here Isabelle Faust is excellent. Her interpretation is
spirited and well balanced, slightly quicker than Storgårds in the first
two movements but slower in the final movement. Whilst Faust does not
eclipse Storgårds, this performance makes a really strong case for the
work and is certainly up there with the best. I particularly enjoyed
the involvement of the Freiburger Barockorchester, with their use of
original instruments helping Schumann’s orchestration to breathe.
The Op. 110 Piano Trio was composed in Düsseldorf. It is another relatively
late work, dating from two years before the Violin Concerto in 1851,
although it did not receive its first public performance until the following
year. As with all of the Trios, it is in four movements, the first of
which is one of Schumann’s finest in sonata-form. The movement shows
the composer at his most turbulent with two main themes, both bold and
dark. This is followed by the slow movement in which we find Schumann
at his most reflective and Romantic. There then follow two quicker movements
which could be seen as being thematically linked with the somewhat wayward
third movement giving way to the dancelike fourth. This is late Schumann
at its best and here it is accorded the treatment that it deserves.
This trio of soloists have shown their worth in their excellent disc
of Beethoven (HMC
902125), and here they are on top form again. Their performance
is a little slower than both the Beaux Arts Trio (456 323-2) and the
Florestan Trio (CDA67175). This does not detract from the music, rather
their use of gut strung instruments and a contemporary Streicher piano
helps the score come to life.
This neatly packaged gatefold digipack comes with a DVD performance
of the Violin Concerto which was recorded in the hall of the Berliner
Philharmonie. Whilst it is nice to have this I can’t actually see myself
watching it that often. This is despite some aspects of the recording
coming over better than in the CD version, especially the timpani. I
just don’t tend to watch live recitals on DVD. I would have enjoyed
seeing the interplay between the three musicians in the Trio more than
the Concerto, as you get so much more out of watching chamber music
performed than just listening to it.
The sound is excellent as are the booklet notes by Roman Hinke. In fact,
my only criticism is one of proof-reading, with the first movement tempo
markings, both on the booklet and the back of the CD case being misspelt.
That is hardly anything when everything else is this good.