One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


16th-19th November


Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Vitězslav NOVÁK (1870-1949)
Variations on a theme by Schumann, Op.4 (1893) [19:58]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Variations on a theme by Schumann, Op.9 (1854) [19:32]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphonic Etudes (1834) [32:02]
Patrick Hemmerlé (piano)
rec. 2015, Victor de los Angeles Concert Hall, Madrid
ORPHEUS OR3012-9720 [72:19]

French pianist Patrick Hemmerlé has been recording Novák. A companion disc, which I’ve also heard for review purposes, contains that passionate and expansive work Pan, and I enjoyed that performance greatly, though it seems – not unreasonably – to be closely patterned after the classic František Rauch recording. For the Spanish label Orpheus, he turns to the Czech composer’s early Variations on a theme by Schumann of 1893, and it forms one of three works in the recital that does two things: firstly, it plays to his strengths in German or Germanic music and second it forms a Schumann-based thematic triptych.

Novák was still a student when he wrote his youthful homage to Schumann and it was only late in his life that he somewhat reluctantly admitted it to the catalogue of his works. There is a theme which is followed by eight variations and a finale. It’s a work so saturated in adoration of its source that there are very few signs of the nascent composer to be heard. The language and accent of the music is Schumannesque to the core. This can work deliciously in the third variation, the Feuillet’d’Album, and in the vigorously youthful Scherzo, though the heart of the work is the relatively expansive Elegia, played by Hemmerlé with deft recognition of its relatively modest objectives. If the last variation, Alla Schumann, could act as an endorsement of the work as a whole, the most technically demanding material is saved for last, a powerful Finale that can sound a little blocky from time to time – assuredly not the pianist’s fault. In all, though uncharacteristic of the mature composer’s work it’s valuable to hear this youthful work, especially when played so well.

Brahms was actually younger than Novák when he wrote his Op.9, a work the Czech composer must have known; they share the same name, for one thing. But in terms of development Brahms was inevitably a far more complete composer and given his own pianistic prowess, he wrote in virtuoso-sized chunks. Hemmerlé voices tenderly and is particularly effective in the variations that call for introspective, songful lyricism, though quite properly doesn’t stint the work’s more celebratory vigour. As for Schumann himself, it’s the Symphonic Etudes that crown the disc. It’s thoughtful, intelligent playing with a well-articulated third variation, a sensitive fifth and a smiling eleventh. He interpolates the fourth and fifth posthumous variations, and he is very honest in noting that this is because he likes them best.

The main focus here is the Novák though its appeal is rather specialist. The programming however makes interlocking sense, the pianist’s own booklet notes are attractively clean-cut, and only the slightly over-bright recording counts in any way against the undertaking.

Jonathan Woolf



 

 




Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger