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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Sonata No 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op 11 [30:10]
Piano Sonata No 2 in G Minor, Op 22 [17:33]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata No 8 in A Minor, KV 310 [13:37]
Piano Sonata No 11 in A Major, KV 331 [16:17]
Rosl Schmid (piano)
rec. Studio 1, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich 1950-51 (Schumann); Raum 1, Reichssender Stuttgart 1940 (Mozart)
MELOCLASSIC MC1048 [77:42]

Here's a turn up for the books, a pianist I've never heard of before. Rosl Schmid's (1911-1978) scant discography, and a dearth of information about her in circulation, almost certainly accounts for this. I did do a bit of digging around and discovered that Meloclassic had issued a volume of her recordings with orchestra of Beethoven, Weber and Strauss previously, but that one totally passed me by, regrettably. Since there is very little about her on the internet Michael Waiblinger's accompanying biographical portrait is all the more welcome. She studied with Walter Lampe, a pupil of Clara Schumann, at the Munich’s Academy of Music. There were also composition lessons from Joseph Haas. In 1938 she came ninth in the Eugčne Ysa’e International Competition for pianists (Emil Gilels took 1st prize and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli 7th). She went on to forge a notable career in Germany. Later in life she confined her activities to teaching and serving on juries. I was interested to read that Maria Joćo Pires had been one of her students.

Schumann’s first two sonatas have been overshadowed somewhat by his other more popular piano pieces. The Second Sonata in G minor is tighter structurally and more compact. Some have levelled criticism of the First Sonata for its lack of structural cohesion. If I lay my cards on the table, I prefer it of the two. I got to know it via Pollini's wonderful recording. The Second Sonata I've never enjoyed, despite Richter's advocacy. I find it less interesting and less inspired. Schmid’s performance of the First is engaging. Her introduction to the opening movement sets the scene for a reading of passionate intensity. She doesn't over-sentimentalize the second movement Aria. The Scherzo is tight and propulsive, and one really feels the dotted rhythms. The finale is highly charged. The piano sound in the Op. 11 is better. In the Op. 22 it sounds rather clangorous.

The two Mozart sonatas were taped ten years earlier on 5 October 1940, and the ambience feels more intimate. It's a pity that both are shorn of repeats, but the performances reveal Schmid's credentials as a Mozart player of profound sensitivity and grace. The A minor Sonata K. 301 is delivered with classical poise. Schmid probes the dark recesses of the score convincingly. The genial A major Sonata K. 331 is the perfect foil with its upbeat character and sunny disposition.

This welcome release adds considerably to our appreciation of this long-forgotten artist. Yhe notes offer excellent background and context, and the black and white photographs are an additional bonus.

Stephen Greenbank

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