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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1956)
Fantasiestücke, Opus 12 (1837) [25:23]
Waldszenen, Opus 82 (1848-9) [20:17]
Arabeske, Opus 18 (1838) [6:20]
Kinderszenen, Opus 15 (1838) [15:59]
Klára Würtz, piano
rec. 2007, Remonstrantse Doopsgezinde Kerk Deventer (Fantasiestücke), Hervormde Kerk Rhoon (Waldszenen and Arabeske), Muziekcentrum Frits Philips Eindhoven (Kinderszenen)

To many the Hungarian pianist Klára Würtz will be relatively unfamiliar. Dozens of marvellous musicians will always be overshadowed by those illustrious (sometimes annoyingly hyped) pianists who currently dominate the musical scene. In the world of film, certain actors and actresses acquire such a glamorous public image that they are chosen time and again to take leading roles. Of course, such over-exposure occurs in all spheres of life, inevitably leading to a certain laziness. Most musical administrators find it easier to re-engage popular artists than to search for deserving alternatives, while all but the most open-minded CD collectors will tend to return to their favourites instead of exploring further. Many of us would admit to such complacency. Equally, artists who record for the less prestigious companies tend to be overlooked, but we should remember that Alfred Brendel recorded for such companies until he was belatedly adopted by some major CD companies.

Ms Würtz has an effortless technique at the service of a temperament which is fiery, impulsive or poetic as Schumann's music demands. Her interpretation of the Fantasiestücke is generally so well characterised that my only reservation is her quickish tempo for the opening piece, which makes it sound beautiful but a little plain – a contradiction in terms, I know. Her wonderful clarity, beautiful tone and musical intelligence combine in satisfying performances throughout this disc. Her left hand is full and sonorous, if just occasionally overemphatic. The wide range of moods encompassed by Schumann's quixotic genius in these three groups of pieces is a challenge to any pianist's imagination, but Ms Würtz clearly justifies her reputation in the music of this composer. Of course, one can always turn to Richter, probably the very greatest of Schumann players and an artist of deep psychological insight, who pushes the boundaries of what seemed possible in this music with his often uncompromising approach (for example, his searching, world-weary performance of the first of the Fantasiestücke mentioned above). Perhaps more abandon (from Ms Würtz) would be desirable in the extrovert pieces such as Jagdlied from the Waldszenen, while the mystery and strangely modern character of Vogel als Prophet are a shade underplayed in Ms Würtz's rather Classical performance. Nevertheless, such a Classical approach, while at the expense of a little more fantasy, is refreshing in itself and on balance preferable to emotional indulgence. To say that Ms Würtz does not over-interpret these masterworks is not to imply any lack of personality. Her approach is fresh, lucid and well characterised. These are performances which will reward repeated listening.

In passing, I must mention David Wright's Music Web International review of her Mozart - 8 Favourite Piano Sonatas – which is even more enthusiastic (“eclipse all others”!). While I would not go quite so far about these Schumann performances, I hope that many CD collectors will be encouraged by positive reviews and thus help to enhance Ms Würtz's reputation.

Philip Borg-Wheeler


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