SCHUMANN: Davidsbuendlertaenze, Op. 6; 3 Pieces from Album fur die Jugend, Op. 68; Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17 – Stephen Hough, piano – Virgin Classics

by | Jul 27, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUMANN: Davidsbuendlertaenze, Op. 6; 3 Pieces from Album fur die Jugend, Op. 68; Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17 – Stephen Hough, piano

Virgin Classics 699470-2, 73:10 **** :

Reissued from the 1989 EMI catalogue, this fine Schumann recital has much to recommend it, foremost the delicately honed, intimate artistry of Stephen Hough, who rarely takes a false step and demonstrates exquisite taste.  The entire recital rarely attempts anything beyond a salon style, introspective, transparent, stylistic. The Dances of the David-Leaguers (1838) emerge as 18 “tempi of initiation,” carrying every facet of Schumann’s artistic and psychological personae as an assault against the forces of anti-intellectualism and complacency. The eighth section, Frisch, caught my attention for its syncopated aggression; the second, Innig, for its drooping figures, a descent into lovely interior world.  Its motto returns at the conclusion of the work to remind us that truth is subjectivity. The big chords of the Balladeenmassig, very fast, no less conveys haunted polyphonic excursions into arcane harmonies. Mit Humor already points to the Schumann Vienna-carnival pieces and the Humoreske. Wild und lustig approaches the Bach organ chorales in its vivid stretti, a grand sound. Zart und singend has the extra etudes of Op. 13 for its delicate brethren. The longest of the set, Wie aus die Ferne wants that “long ago and far away” nostalgia that defines the Romantic Age, a world of Holderlin’s poetry and Walter Scott romances.

Barely eight minutes from the Op. 68 (1848) invite us to speak tenderly of childhood dream and picturesque visions. No. 21 is marked Langsam, with a quality of spoken conversation. No. 26 is marked Nicht schnell, with a plaintive yearning for a persistent vision. No. 30, Sehr langsam, projects a series of laments and echoes – a quiet duet between a youth and a puzzling world.

Last, the great C Major Fantasy (1836), dedicated to Liszt and inspired as a monument to Beethoven on several levels, including quotes from Beethoven’s song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98. However passionate Hough’s performance, it remains subdued and eminently civilized; none of the heaven-storming conflagrations we find in Richter and Horowitz. Neither prosaic nor melodramatic, Hough’s rendition clearly attempts to impose a classical rounded symmetry on its massive emotions and thick syncopations, its poetic outbursts that embrace both Schlegel and the cosmic fire that permeates Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and van Gogh‘s Starry Night all at once. Devotional solid Schumann without pretensions.

— Gary Lemco
 

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure