You might be surprised, given the growing interest in Clara Schumann's music, that Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series did not include her sole piano concerto before the 78th volume. In fact, the work is not often played; it is a student work, a product of the composer's 14th year, and it's rather uneven, with a finale that's longer than the first two movements put together. Clara accepted help on the orchestration from her boarder, not yet husband, Robert Schumann. But it thus marks the beginning of their creative partnership, and it's interesting in other ways as well. Pianist Howard Shelley, who also conducts the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, makes the best possible case for it by placing it in a program featuring virtuoso music by Ferdinand Hiller, Henri Herz, and Friedrich Kalkbrenner -- exactly the music Schumann would have heard in her daily piano lessons. Some of this turns out to be well worth retrieval from the scrap heap of history: sample Kalkbrenner's Le rêve, Op. 113, with its unabashedly splashy march conclusion. But what strikes one about the young Clara's concerto is that she took little from this music, even though she clearly already had the chops to play it. Instead she is reaching for large scope and unusual key relationships, even if it takes her until the finale to really hit her target. Shelley and his Tasmanians continue their impressive record of clean, differentiated performances of a great variety of Romantic works, and that variety is the key point here.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 7|