SCHUMANN – Blumentück, Op. 19; Sonata for Piano No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 11; Kreisleriana, Op. 16; Arabeske, Op. 18 –Yury Martynov, piano – Caro Mitis

by | May 18, 2010 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUMANN: Blumentück, Op. 19; Sonata for Piano No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 11; Kreisleriana, Op. 16; Arabeske, Op. 18 –Yury Martynov, piano – Caro Mitis, multichannel SACD CM 0072006, 79:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
This is the kind of recording that music lovers might stumble across on the Internet and then pass by without a second thought. For several reasons, that would be a mistake. For one thing, the program is an interesting one, mixing popular with not-so-popular piano music by Schumann. At almost eighty minutes, it’s a generous program as well. Then there’s the playing of Yury Martyrov. His performances may not displace classic ones by Argerich, Horowitz, Pollini, et al., but he understands this music well and has the technical chops to deliver it effectively. A professor at the Moscow State Conservatory, Martyrov has won several awards and is proficient on harpsichord, clavichord, and organ as well. So we’re in the hands of a performer who knows his way around the keyboard.
Along with two of Schumann’s true hits, Kreisleriana and Arabeske, we have the curiously named Blumenstück and the big First Piano Sonata, recorded far more often than they are played in public. Blumenstück, “Flower Piece,” seems to have precious little to do about flowers, but as the notes to the recording explain, the title was suggested by Schumann’s favorite novelist, Jean-Paul Richter, who had written a book called Flower, Fruit, and Thorn Pieces. Schumann hoped not to recreate the plot or atmosphere of the novel but to capture a variety of fleeting moods, just as Jean-Paul conveys a kaleidoscopic variety of images in his work. Blumenstück is the perfect evocation of Schumann’s alter egos, Florestan and Eusebius. The dreamer Eusebius leads the way at first, followed by a wild ride at the heart of the piece, courtesy of the manic Florestan. Played as Martynov plays it, Blumenstück should be heard more often.
The same can be said of the rather wayward First Sonata, a work that’s hard to hold together. For me, Martynov manages to do so and unfolds its unruly charms in convincing fashion.
If his Kreisleriana is less convincing, that’s probably because so many piano greats have tackled the work and left their mark on performing practice, as well as the memory of their playing on the mind’s ear, to paraphrase the Bard. Still, Martynov’s performance is a good one. I have few objections, really. For one, the first piece, Außerst bewegt, could be better articulated; it sounds a mite sloppy in this performance. And in the piece Sehr aufgeregt, Martynov lingers a bit too long at the start, making it sound arch, though he recovers nicely toward the end, with a bravura finish. Overall, as I say, this is a solid performance.
No complaints about Arabeske. This is a well-modulated, well-played rendition of a classic work.
Finally, there’s the sound. This is one of those recordings that could be Exhibit A in any trial of the effectiveness of the SACD format. Not only is the piano reproduced with great fidelity and without any clangor, it seems to be situated in an indeterminate yet perfect place within your listening space, almost the effect you get with a really good pair of headphones. At least that’s what I hear on my equipment. Here’s hoping the same is true of yours.
Martynov’s performances probably won’t replace any of your old standbys. Nonetheless, the playing here is very good, and few recordings can match the sonic refinement that Martynov enjoys. For me, this disc is a worthy supplement to my favorites. It might well be for you too.

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