"Liaisons 2" = SCHUMANN: Papillons, Op. 2; Forest Scenes, Op. 82; BRAHMS: Piano Pieces, Op. 118 – Dejan Lazic, piano – Channel Classics Multichannel SACD 27609, 67:32 ***1/2 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
I generally liked Lazic’s Rach 2 concerto recording [https://www.audaud.com/article.php?ArticleID=5280] though I missed the first “Liaisons” recording that featured Bartok and Scarlatti. Fortunately Laurence Vittes covered it, almost gushing in his 5-star review [https://www.audaud.com/article.php?ArticleID=3851]. I wish I could be as excited about this new recording, which couples in a most unsatisfactory way the relationship of Schumann and Brahms. Part of the trouble is that we are given extremely early Schumann, then a taste of the middle years, followed by very late Brahms, and it is difficult to always taste the seasoning that supposedly adorned both of these composer’s salads; late Brahms is miles away from Papillons. A heads-up comparison of early-to-early or late-to-late would have been more appropriate.
Be that as it may we must deal with the disc as is. Papillons fares this worst. These “butterflies” are in fact Schumann’s first go at ballroom dances (a form he returned to late in life) and these performances feel more like practice in the studio than a swirl around the floor suited up in formal dress. The energy is lacking; the sense of lightness and airiness pull these dances earthbound, and their interconnectivity is also laid threadbare and diffuse, lacking any sort of consistent relatedness. I want to see the colors flying this work, dizziness abounding from the perspiring participant’s athletic discourse, but these dancers have sore feet.
Forest Scenes is a fine performance. This late work is often misconstrued and given an almost “fairy-tale” reading by those who equate every picturesque named work by Schumann with Kinderszenen. But these are pictorial in the sense of mysterious evocation and not direct imagery. The forest haunted the imaginations of the romantics; there was always a sense of the unknown, of danger lurking beyond the next creek or clumps of large trees, alternating with a serenity and peace found in known comfort spots or places where guaranteed beauty awaited year after year. It is this dichotomy that makes Schumann’s work so interesting, and for the most part Lazic gets it just right. I can’t say that he surpasses Richter’s EMI reading of the piece, but it is well-conceived even in the places where I would have done something differently. His passion succeeds where his persuasiveness fails.
The Brahms, his last piano music, is a mixed bag. When he hits he hits big, as in the No. 2 Intermezzo, perfectly paced and gorgeously sung by a performer that has true poetry within him. Others like the No. 3 Ballade are over-balanced and exaggerated in certain instances that mar the overall effect—Brahms is not a composer to “emphasize” areas of line and melody, unlike Schumann.
The sound makes quite an impact, the fortes brilliantly spaced widely and with lots of depth. The lesser dynamics are not quite as noticeable, sometimes falling victim to sonic-wash, but nothing to write home about. Lazic is one to watch, and the hit-miss nature of this recital is only evidence of a thinking and exploring artistic mind.
— Steven Ritter