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Fantasiebilder MLS 033034
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Fantasiebilder aus Wien
Clara Wieck-Schumann (1819-1896)
3 Romances No.1 – andante Op.21 No.1 (1853)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
7 Fantasies Op.116 (1892)
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Consolations S.172 Nos.1-3 (1849-1850)
Sonetto del Petrarca 123 from Années de Pèlerinage II S.161 No.6 (1846-1858)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
3 Romances Op.28 (1839)
Widmung Op.25 No.1 (1848, arr. Liszt)
Arabeske op.18 (1839)
Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op.26 (1839)
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938)
Triakontameron No.11 – Alt Wien (1919-20)
Anna Zassimova (piano)
rec. 2020/21 at Eglise Evangélique Saint-Marcel, Paris
MELISM MLS-CD-033/034 [2 CDs: 98]

Despite the title the common thread in this lovely recital is the love, respect and admiration of the composers represented. The Schumanns and Brahms are a trio that will forever be deeply intertwined in the musical consciousness and if Liszt was never part of that circle and was sometimes scorned by them for his worldly virtuosity they always acknowledged his obvious gifts. Zassimova brings them together intelligently, opening with Clara Schumann's beautiful, passionate Romance in A minor, a piece that I love more each time I hear it. Two manuscripts exist that have dedications to my beloved husband and to my dear friend Johannes Brahms respectively and the work ably sets the scene for longer selections from those two composers.

The Fantasies by Brahms were written while he was working closely with Clara on getting some of Robert's manuscripts ready for publication. There is something of a live feel to these performances; gentle accelerandi in the phrases of the Intermezzo in E minor and the arpeggios of the G minor Capriccio as well as some surging crescendos. They are quite expansive, perhaps a little too expansive for my taste in the central section of the second of the E major Intermezzi but on the whole the playing here is very satisfying and as lyrical as one could ask for, a lyricism that is evident through the recital and continues immediately in the Consolations and song transcriptions by Liszt. Clara may have tut-tutted over the more extrovert elements of Liszt's personality but she was not immune to his talents and Zassimova has chosen works that could not have failed to appeal to Clara's sensibilites. I love the performances here especially the second Consolation and the Petrarch Sonnet with its many moments of breathless delicacy. Clara made piano transcriptions of her husband's songs including Widmung but it is Liszt's elaborate concert version that Zassimova chooses; unlike some pianists I have heard in this piece she is always sensitive to the fact that this was originally a song.

The contrasting mood of Schumann's three Romances sit well under Zassimova's fingers whether it is the restlessness of the opening Romance or the poised duet of the familiar second number. I am particularly impressed with the buoyant rhythmic impetus that she brings to the third, a work I was unfamiliar with. The Arabesque, flowing and heartfelt, precedes the work that inspired the title of the disc, Schumann's Carnival jest from Vienna. Schumann was visiting Vienna to explore ways of promoting his vision of a music journal but ultimately it was the artisitic inspiration of the city that was to prove so invaluable; the Arabesque was written there along with the Blumenstück op.19 and Humoresque op.20 and the work that is almost a companion to his Carneval op.9, his Carnival jest from Vienna remains a lasting testament to his time there. Zassimova's performance is passionate and dramatic and she finds excellent tempi throughout, steering clear of the extreme tempi of a Michelangeli or Gavrilov in the finale while still exhibiting thrilling virtuosity.

To continue the theme of a live recital Zassimova ends with an encore, Leopold Godowsky's touching fin de siècle waltz Alt Wien; wonderful as a concert encore but slightly odd in this context it is nonetheless engagingly played. On the whole this is a warm-hearted and satisfying recital.

Rob Challinor

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