Clara Schumann was heralded by not only her husband to be, but also by the entire musical world as a formidable prodigy and composer, even from the early age of 15. If we are to believe Robert’s letters, it was her music that was a deciding factor in cementing his love and affection for her, as he felt that their individual muses complemented and completed one another’s. It is a marvel to anyone familiar with her music as to how similar in tone it sounds to his. And while Robert’s music displays a more formidable structural integrity and certain depth-plummeting facet that Clara’s never quite achieved, this could just as well be ascribed to the fact that their individual circumstances in life took them in different directions. Clara virtually gave up composing by 1852, and her duties as wife, mother, and perpetual worrier over her husband’s condition no doubt inhibited her from taking the time needed to develop into a more serious voice in Europe. There is no doubt that her music would have increased in complexity and form; whether she would have achieved the etch-romantic ethos of her husband, perhaps the greatest of them all, is something we will never know.
This is the third disc I have in my collection of her music, the second of piano only, and it does duplicate the Opus 11 and 21 pieces on an album by Helene Boschi (Calliope 6211), one that, while well played, is a little congested in sound and not nearly as spacious and flexible as this beautifully recorded disc. The Calliope also has the Three Romances for Violin and Piano, and three early preludes and fugues that I find particularly fascinating, so I cannot recommend jettisoning one for the other, but I will say that the duplications are played far better on this disc by Marie-Josephe Jude, who lets the music breathe more, displays a better sense of spacing and delineation of contrapuntal lines, and has a more robust piano tone, partly demonstrated by the nice separation of the surround channels. Jude’s recording brings the listener into the salon, whereas Boschi’s audience must be content to sit with heads under the cover board. We get in this release two early works of the pre-20 Clara, and two more mature pieces as well, the most haunting perhaps the Four pieces fugitives. Everyone needs at least one disc of Clara Schumann’s music in their collection, and if only one then it needs to be piano music for obvious reasons. This fine recording could very well serve as that issue.
— Steven Ritter