Susanne Grützmann

Clara Schumann: The Complete Works for Piano Solo

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The music of Clara Schumann for solo piano on this four-disc set by Susanne Grützmann falls roughly into two types -- bravura and poetic -- which generally follows a chronological path through Schumann's life, or at least the portion during which she did compose (she stopped after the death of Robert). It might have been more helpful to have the works arranged on the four discs in chronological order or at least split into the two groups. Many of Clara's early works were created to please her audience and show off her skills as a pianist, which were impressive even at the age of 11. Those very first pieces are grouped together on the final disc, and after hearing the other three (and following them with a Romance written the year before Robert Schumann died), there is a discernible difference in maturity and complexity of composition, but the smattering of interesting harmonies, variations in structure, and mood changes tell you that this is no ordinary pre-teen. Of the later works, her best pieces are the short, character pieces that are very similar in nature to those of her husband. Her sonata doesn't quite gel into a full, large work, presenting itself more as a sonata allegro and rondo with two character pieces in between.

Grützmann is technically skillful, having no trouble with the more ostentatious moments, and she never plays them just for their glorification. More than that, she infuses the music with some of what someone might imagine Schumann was feeling at the time she wrote each work. The youthful dances are full of animation, good cheer (although Clara's father could be a harsh taskmaster), and a bit of "yes, but I'm a real musician who can also compose well" cheekiness. Romances from her married years have tenderness and, by turns, passion or melancholy. And throughout much of the music, Grützmann finds sensitive touches and a gracefulness, which in a way makes it feminine sounding compared to any of the music of Schumann's husband or her contemporaries Mendelssohn and Brahms, but seems a very natural part of her writing.

The caveat: beware of any recording purporting to be the "complete" anything. This isn't quite that. What's missing are a few smaller pieces that were only published in the late 1990s plus a few improvisations that Schumann's daughters convinced her to write out in her last years. (Jozef de Beenhouwer's 2001 recording on CPO is more complete.) Regardless, this encompasses the bulk and is eminently suitable for anyone who is interested in her music.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 04:06 Amazon
Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, for piano in F sharp minor, Op. 20
2 01:00 Amazon
3 00:47 Amazon
4 01:25
5 01:02 Amazon
6 01:14 Amazon
7 01:01
8 00:51 Amazon
9 04:10 Amazon
Soirées Musicales, 6 pieces for piano, Op. 6
10 02:09 Amazon
11 04:53 Amazon
12 03:15 Amazon
13 05:31 Amazon
14 02:29 Amazon
15 03:49 Amazon
Variations de Concert on a Cavatina from Bellini's "Pirata," for piano, Op. 8
16 02:32 Amazon
17 02:23 Amazon
18 01:39
19 03:20 Amazon
20 02:06 Amazon
21 02:55 Amazon
22 01:17
23 00:58 Amazon
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