Pletnev Plays SCHUMANN: Etudes symphoniques Op. 13; Fantasie in C Major Op. 17; Bunte Blätter: Albumblätter I-V; Arabesque

by | May 10, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Pletnev Plays SCHUMANN: Etudes symphoniques Op. 13; Fantasie in C
Major Op. 17; Bunte Blätter: Albumblätter I-V; Arabesque – Mikhail
Pletnev, piano – DGG multichannel SACDs 477 057-2 (2 discs), 28:08,
48:13 ****:

This is a Schumannesque week
for me. Just finished reviewing the John Lill two-LP set of Schumann
piano works recorded by Tony Faulkner entirely in analog, and here is a
two-SACD set of more Schumann – included another interpretation of the
C Major Fantasy. OK, interesting comparison, right? It is very nice to
have the more enveloping sound of the performance space accessible on
the multichannel SACD, and Pletnev may run a little more dramatic in
his interpretation, but the sound of John Lill’s piano on the LP is
again superior in most other aspects to the SACD – especially so if we
switch from the multichannel option to the stereo SACD for a fairer
comparison.

Back to the music: The Symphonic Etudes is a winner with performers and
listeners for the exciting way it expands the capabilities of both the
piano and the performer. Its 28-minute length and passages that try to
transform the piano into an entire orchestra qualify the work for the
“symphonic” appelation. (Although the Fantasy in C is longer yet.) The
structure of the work is simple – it’s a theme and variations with a
big finish. But it is full of musical and extra-musical references. In
spite of its very extrovert nature, the two alter-egos of Schumann
(which eventually developed into serious mental illness) are felt in
the emotional contrasts of the Etudes. The Album Leaves are short
pieces – one as short as 45 seconds! – which Schumann composed at
various times. Five of them are gathered together in Op. 99. The
closing Arabesque, with its affecting melody, is an example of
Schumann’s “house music” for performance in the home.

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