Tamas Vasary plays SCHUMANN = Carnaval, Op. 9; Romance in F-sharp Major, Op. 28, No. 2; Fanatsie in C Major, Op. 17; Kinderszenen, Op. 15 – Tamas Vasary, piano – Hungaraton

by | Sep 26, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Tamas Vasary plays SCHUMANN = Carnaval, Op. 9; Romance in F-sharp Major, Op. 28, No. 2; Fanatsie in C Major, Op. 17; Kinderszenen, Op. 15 – Tamas Vasary, piano – Hungaraton HCD 32547, 76:21 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:

Recorded 2-7 May 2008 and 6-8 May 2009, this all-Schumann disc revives a fond memory of Hungarian virtuoso Tamas Vasary (b. 1933), who made quite a sensation forty years ago when his DGG inscriptions of Chopin (with conductor Kulka) and Liszt appeared. I had the pleasure of meeting Maestro Vasary at the Kapell Competition in Maryland some twenty years ago, and in the course of our discussions, he mentioned that he and Ferenc Fricsay had collaborated on the two Liszt concertos, of which no recorded document survives.

Vasary quickly proves his formidable powers at the keyboard remain undiminished, his Carnaval a brilliant series of anagrammatic responses to impulses–personal and 
aesthetic–from Schumann’s own life and reading. The presto passages seem to have gained special fervor with age, the poetic episodes a nostalgia and pathos from long and tender familiarity. In his notes, Vasary recalls that the Paganini character follows a German waltz, likely because Schumann first heard the demonic violinist in Frankfurt. Gliding through the whirl of characters from the Commedia dell’arte and Jean-Paul Richter, Vasary might well be the emcee at a fabulous masked ball, negotiating through a ballroom whose program card reads of waltzes, etudes, and marches, all played with a stylistic élan, if not manic verve – proper to any apostle of the Davids-League.

Clara Schumann characterized the second Romance from Op. 28 as “the most intimate dialogue of two lovers,” given the music’s appearance on three staves, the second of which may well represent the obstacle Friedrich Wieck, who stood firm against the marriage of Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck. Out of the same hyper-Romantic sensibility comes the 1836 Fantasie in C Major, written ostensibly to celebrate a monument in memory of Beethoven and quoting a theme from Beethoven song-cycle “To the Distant Beloved.” The first movement presents a world of swirling passion set in the style of a ballade (or “legend”), in which Vasary’s handling of the pedal should warrant attention from keyboard audiophiles. Vasary takes the second movement, a powerfully syncopated march, as a series of dynamic gradients and studies in contrasting applications of touch and quicksilver trills and pedal points. The last movement expounds on the nocturnal elements of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, a graduated love scene whose musical values presage the amours in Wagner’s Tristan.

Finally, Vasary turns to Schumann’s 1838 evocation of childhood, Kinderszenen, which converts William Wordsworth into music, cross-fertilized by a decidedly “domestic” impulse. Narrative efficacy and brisk delicacy combine for several of the character sketches, the suite a kind of diurnal journal of tender parenthood. Schumann’s capacity for three-voice effects, as in Glueckes genug, Vasary carries off with poetic aplomb. The very last The Poet Speaks places into aesthetic perspective the truths which childhood dreams convey, if only adults could hearken to them.

— Gary Lemco

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