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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasie in C, Op. 17 (1839) [49:31]
Bernhard Ruchti (piano)
rec. 2020, KKL Luzern Concert Hall, Switzerland MUSICJUSTMUSIC MJM-CCK190 [CD: 49:31+ DVD: 131 mins]
The American-born Swiss pianist, Bernhard Ruchti, offers us a rather unusual and breathtaking rendition of Robert Schuman’s masterpiece, the Fantasie in C major, Op. 17. This recording belongs to Ruchti’s “A Tempo Project,” composed of selected works of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt. Each CD is accompanied by a high-quality video recording in DVD format with a short historical, aesthetic, and performative introduction in both English and German languages. According to the pianist himself, “A Tempo Project” aims to bring historical tempos back to life. To do so, Ruchti reinterprets the metronome marks of early nineteenth-century sources in the framework of the whole-beat metronome practice (WBMP).
Without entering the heated debate on whether WBMP is musicologically accurate or not, Ruchti’s interpretation of Schumann’s Fantasie is a well-crafted performance, full of musical expression. With slower tempi, sustaining a unified phrasing can become an increasingly problematic task. Ruchti addresses phrasing with a very refined control of dynamics and agogics. This live performance of the Fantasie is full of soul, contrary to the numerous studio recordings which are perfectly edited in postproduction, but dead in the end. The liveliness of Ruchti’s version is mixed with a sense of artistic merit and musical splendor, for which it could be easily called a first-class performance.
Ruchti’s meticulous study of the score is manifested through innovative and bold choices. For instance, the coda of the third movement presents a well-constructed accelerando. The original arpeggios in octaves are eventually dislocated, forming an interlocked dialogue between the right and left hands. Another fabulous example of Ruchti’s sensitivity is the opening of the first movement. Texture builds up progressively, leading into a passionate melody that ultimately disintegrates into silence. It is the profound expression of musical silences that distinguishes this performance. During the transitional pauses, greatly magnified by the pianist, one can feel a sense of suspense, anticipation, and unearthliness that is hard to come by these days.
Prof. Dr. Bohdan Syroyid Syroyid