SCHUMANN: Album for the Young – Alessandra Ammara, piano – Arts

by | Apr 12, 2011 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUMANN: Album for the Young – Alessandra Ammara, piano – Arts multichannel SACD 47756-8, 73:52 [Distr. by Albany] *****:

The Album for the Young is known at least in piecemeal by virtually anyone who has ever studied the piano. Yet this work, originally titled Christmas Album, was not intended solely as an instrument of pedagogy, but as a genuine attempt by the composer to see the world with a child’s eyes. It is broken into two halves (1-18, and 19-43) with the instructions that the second part is for those children “a little older”, so one would think that this was indeed the original intention, but the music itself speaks of worlds much larger and intentions more profound than what we might first think.

The piece was completed in 1848, and Schumann slowly added to the work after writing the first selections for his eldest daughter. All of the titles were added later, which sort of throws a wrench into the idea of any particular pianist needing to use the descriptions as a guide to the musical landscape, but that is exactly what Ammara does on this disc, giving renditions that are as true to the verbiage found in the printed score as any I have heard.

And why not? They were added later it is true, but they were still added, and I don’t see anything wrong with one making use of them. After all, would you prefer a “Soldier’s March” that is so fast it would completely jettison any idea of a march at all? So what Ammara gives us here is a performance that makes the most of the marriage of verbal and musical ideas that are so much a part of this score in the modern age, and she does it about as well as any other recording I know.

My favorite to this point has been Eric Le Sage on Alpha, and that is still a tremendous account, but as good as his sound is it is not Super Audio, and this one wins that contest hands down. Le Sage is a little more energetic, and I am not about to discount that recording, but Ammara is his equal in just about every other pertinent musical matter. This is a highly desirable release from a woman who is definitely making some noise in the classical world.

— Steven Ritter

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