Robert Schumann’s brilliant compositions for the piano bridge the period between Beethoven and the Romantics much more successfully than any of his contemporaries, whose works leaned heavily towards sensationalism and showmanship. Schumann, from early on, had greatly desired a career as a concert pianist, and the brilliance of his compositional style shows throughout his piano-based works. The Waldszenen, or Forest Scenes, are nine miniatures that serve as companion pieces to his Kinderszenen (Scenes From Childhood), and offer very literary and dreamlike representations of the woodland stories of German dramatist Heinrich Laube. The centerpiece, and major work, is the C-major Fantasy, which Schumann composed at a time of great despair. The work, in its original incarnation, was designed as a sonata, and was dedicated to his true love, Clara Wieck. The original work had been begun after Clara’s father had openly opposed Schumann’s marriage plans for his daughter. Through a miscommunication, Clara rejected Schumann’s original dedication of the piece, and Schumann assumed that her rejection of the dedication extended to him, as well. After several revisions, the Fantasy was finally published, and Schumann eventually won Clara’s heart as well.
This disc is pianist Nicolas Bringuier’s debut recording, and he offers here a dazzling display of his technique and virtuosity. A graduate with honors from the Paris Conservatory in 1996 at age 16, he has since studied and toured extensively. He won a silver medal at the fourteenth annual Robert Schumann piano competition in 2004, and was a semi-finalist at the fifteenth Chopin competition the following year.
The SACD disc is sourced from a 24/88 PCM recording which was transferred to DSD, and really serves to highlight how insignificant the differences are between really well-recorded high resolution media. The multichannel layer, which I used almost exclusively, was mixed from the PCM source using the surrounds very judiciously, and provides an excellent presentation of a piano in a very real space. The stereo hi-res layer is also very well recorded, with a great sense of ambience – it’s obvious that very little was done to the multichannel layer to provide the surround information. Regardless, the sound is superb, and this disc is very highly recommended.
— Tom Gibbs