Japanese-British pianist Mitsuko Uchida continues to impress with recordings that are not so much intellectual as simply well thought out, making a challenging yet extremely satisfying overall impression. Consider the three works by Robert Schumann recorded here. Only the Waldszenen, Op. 82 (Forest Scenes), are well known. The Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22, is an early but not immature work, composed in 1830 and supplied with a new finale in 1838 at the suggestion of Clara Schumann, who pointed out that while she could play the original version, few others would be able to. There is already plenty to chew on here, for Schumann incorporates motivic links to the first movement in the new finale. Clara was lukewarm about the work (calling it "not too incomprehensible"), but Schumann himself thought highly of it. The genesis of the work is fascinating; it began with a song Schumann composed in his student days, and Schumann incorporated it into an inner voice of the slow movement. Rather like Beethoven's theater music, it does have the feel of an innovative composer's ideas being forced into an older mold. But Uchida, with her precise yet explosive style, is the perfect interpreter of the work, which seems to spill over the boundaries of sonata form with quasi-improvisatory ideas. Her performance connects the work to the rest of the output of the young Schumann in an ideal way. Also interesting are the Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133 (Dawn Songs), one of the last things Schumann finished before going insane: they are strangely serene little miniatures. The Waldszenen themselves are full of fresh, even daring interpretations. Decca's engineering staff outdoes itself with its capture of an ideal sound environment for the work: not the usual concert hall or studio but the well-known audiophile venue the Reitstadel in the German city of Neumarkt. An essential Schumann release.
Schumann: Piano Works Review
by James Manheim
|Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), Op. 82|
|Piano sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22|
|Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133|