Isabelle Faust / Pablo Heras-Casado

Robert Schumann, 1

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The revival of Robert Schumann's late style has reached a point where pieces may be combined on a program simply by virtue of dating from the last years of Schumann's life, regardless of genre. This release combines Schumann's only violin concerto, the Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO 23 (not WoO 1 as the graphics here state, along with other errors), and the Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor, Op. 110. Violinist Isabelle Faust plays on both works. The biggest news is the reading of the violin concerto here. This work was suppressed by Clara Schumann, on the advice of violinist Joseph Joachim, who apparently didn't get it. It was not premiered until 1937, and despite performances by Yehudi Menuhin it has remained a rare item in recording catalogs. Faust and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra go a long way toward sorting out its difficulties. Those reside mainly in the first movement, which is a soupy mess when played by a large modern orchestra, but resolves nicely here in the crisp playing of Faust and the orchestra. There are few really tuneful passages in the whole movement, which treats the violin as a sort of fragmentation device breaking up the main thematic material. The slow movement is recognizable enough as Schumann, but the finale has been even more problematical for performers. A long polonaise, it seems at first to have little external structure. It was probably this movement that convinced Joachim that Schumann had gone off his rocker, but given the right slightly hypnotic feel, as Faust does here, it comes off as an experimental attempt by Schumann to make a kind of fantasy finale, and it's quite effective. Pair it all with a tough, dense performance of the Piano Trio No. 3, and this is music that, as can can easily be imagined, fascinated the young Brahms, and continues to fascinate today.

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