Recorded 1999-2002, these three sets of Schumann piano staples offer some strong and poetic renditions of familiar works, the very essence of Schumann’s sensibility, based on his own keyboard style and his literary tastes, which ran from E.T.A. Hoffmann, to Shakespeare, to Jean-Paul Richter.
What I like most about Hamelin’s aggressive approach is the freshness he communicates, along with alert phrasings and pulsation. Hamelin has technique to spare, so Schumann’s three-part harmony and spinning arabesques prove no obstacle to the fluency of his vision. The Paganini section from Carnaval, for instance, blisters its way across Schumann’s imagined violin bridge, the soul of demonic virtuosity. When Hamelin decides to milk a phrase, as in Des Abends or Fabel from Fantasiestuecke, the effect is lulling romance, a nocturne of captivating beauty. My daughter came running to my listening space during the Chopin section of Carnaval, asking who composed this lovely music. The bombastic and heraldic moments in Schumann receive brisk, bold sonorities, courtesy of Hamelin’s Steinway, engineers Tony Faulkner and Simon Eadon. Boldly assertive and dreamily poetic, these are the Florestan and Eusebius personae Schumann claimed occupied his own breast. Hamelin plays master Raro in this happy collaboration, a visceral meeting of kindred spirits. Recommended.