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Schumann Davidsbundlertanze ATLA032
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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Polonaise-fantaisie in A-flat major, Op 61 (1846) [12:43]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Davidsbündlertänze, Op 6 (pub.1837) [30:00]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Chant élégiaque No 14 from 18 Pieces, Op 72 (1892-93) [5:10]
Gabriel DUPONT (1878-1914)
Four pieces from La Maison dans les dunes (1907-09) [14:15]
Severin von Eckardstein (piano)
rec. 2020, Eglise Saint-Jean de Montmartre, Paris, France
ARTALINNA ATL-A032 [62:08]

This is the second recording I have reviewed of a live recital from Les Nuits Oxygene, the festival inaugurated by Pierre-Yves Lascar. The pianist on the first was Vestard Shimkus (Artalinna ATLA023 review) and some of the same larger-than-life playing is found here; this is no shrinking violet's Chopin and Schumann. These two familiar composers along with the passionate encore from Tchaikowsky actually formed the second half of the recital, the first half comprising Gabriel Dupont's evocative cycle La Maison dans les dunes, of which four items have been selected to complete this disc.

The contrasting elements of fantasy and dance that bother some listeners in Chopin's Polonaise-fantaisie have never been an issue for me and I find it an amazing work that shows how far Chopin considered he had come with the form after the two towering polonaises that proceed it. It would have been wonderful to see how Chopin would have approached both forms, fantaisie and polonaise had he lived longer. Eckardstein conceives this as a huge work, its Polish elements grand, and rhythmically taut – witness the polonaise establishing itself after the almost impressionist opening - and its more lyrical sections played with attention to the melody line but also huge dynamic contrast as he allows the harmonic and melodic phrases to rise and fall within short spans, sometimes as brief as a bar. His Davidsbündlertänze is as impassioned, Eckardstein clearly emphasising the contrasts between Schumann's two imaginary characters, dreamy and poetic Eusebius and the bold, swaggering Florestan. I am impressed by the forward sweep of this music and Eckardstein's technique is more than equal to the task. This is obvious in the searing technical challenges of the fourth number and his faithfulness to Schumann's Wild und lustig indication for the eighth number but it is equally apt for the more delicate virtuosity of movement seven with its feather-light final bars. His lyrical playing is equally impressive whether that is the simple unforced elegance of the B minor sixth movement or, with Eckardstein's pedalling, the almost impressionist soundworld of the fifth, displaying the harmonic genius of which Schumann was capable.

In more obvious impressionist territory are the four movements from La Maison dans les dunes, the cycle that Dupont wrote as he took the sea air that eased but ultimately failed to help the tuberculosis that would bring about his death at the untimely age of 36. Eckardstein has recorded the whole cycle for Artalinna (ATLA020 review) and they offer these live versions to further illuminate that recording. The first item, Dans les dunes, par un clair matin is a tad more extrovert than the performance issued by Danacord (DACOCD839 review, review) from his Husum rarities of piano music recital – perhaps the sea air around Cap Ferret is headier than that of Husum? He is playful depicting the sails on the the water of the second number though the voiles sur l'eau could easily refer to veils of mists in the swirling, indistinct central episode. The evening mood of Le soir dans les pins is tranquil though as you enter deeper into the shadows of the trees tendrils of zephyrs sweep through the branches and there is an air of mystery and sadness about this music. The opening music returns but is now accompanied by swirling arpeggios that are almost Lisztian. The final extract is the beautiful clair d'étoiles, the light of the stars glittering in a song without words of an earlier age, the slight blurring of harmonies only brought about when the song returns in a canonic duet for soprano and baritone. Though this brings the CD to a close the actual recital included the encore played here and what a piece; it is easy to forgot how effective Tchaikovsky's piano works can be in the right hands and Eckardstein certainly brings his Chant élégiaque to dramatic life in all its Slavic melancholy and Lisztian finery, ending with utter delicacy. He holds one spell-bound and for all the virtuosity on display here it is fitting that the tranquility of this ending and the simple delicacy of Dupont's clair d'étoiles closes the recital and leaves me wanting more.

Rob Challinor

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