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Robert SCHUMANN (1801-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54 (1841) [32:10]
Norbert BURGMÜLLER (1810-1836)
Symphony No. 2 in D major, op. 11 (1835) [30:49]
Colibrì Ensemble/Alexander Lonquich (piano)
rec. 2017, Studio Odradek, Italy
ODRADEK ODRCD355 [63:04]

The Schumann concerto was the work that led me into the world of classical music, and hence it has a special place in my heart. It was probably for this reason that I requested this CD, when it looked as though it would go unreviewed.

Alexander Lonquich is not a name I recognise, but a little searching indicates that he has quite a number of recordings covering more than a decade across a range of prominent labels, ECM and Alpha, for example. The notes indicate that he has an ongoing connection with the Colibrì Ensemble. Choosing to record such a staple of the repertoire is courageous, and alas, not particularly successful. At over 32 minutes, it is one of the slower versions out there, without seeming to achieve any special insight in doing so. It is competently performed, no more. There is, however, a much bigger problem here. Someone - the recording engineer seems the most likely candidate - has got the sound levels wrong, leading to what sounds to me like clipping at climaxes. It is most evident in the concerto, where the Steinway piano sounds harsh and distorted in the fortissimo moments. It is less evident in the symphony, but is there if you listen very closely.

Norbert Burgmüller was one of the less well-known composers to die very young, younger even than Schubert. The pairing of his uncompleted second symphony is appropriate since he was a friend of Schumann, who orchestrated the third movement Scherzo after Burgmüller’s death. He also contemplated completing the final movement, but chose not to. There is an alternative recording of this work on MDG, which also features his piano concerto and an overture, so these are far more attractive options than the discmate here. However, I think the Colibrì Ensemble makes a better case for the work, which has reminders of Beethoven, the Pastoral especially.

The Pescara-based ensemble comprises 41 players, so might be considered a largish chamber orchestra. They play well enough, the smaller number of players suiting the Burgmüller particularly. The booklet notes provide good information on Burgmüller’s life and the symphony, but the recording quality is a huge problem. I see on Presto Music that you can purchase a download of the symphony only for approximately half the price of the CD; that would be my recommendation.

David Barker

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