Gudrun Schaumann / Christoph Hammer

The Circle of Robert Schumann

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Robert Schumann had the fortune of being alive at what must have been an astonishing period in the history of music, on the heels of Beethoven and surrounded by all of the great early Romantic composers and performers. Even his own family was a source of incredible musical gifts, from his gifted pianist wife, Clara, to even Clara's half brother, Woldemar Bargiel. This two-disc Capriccio set builds on some of these relationships and friendships that inspired some of Schumann's own compositions. Violinist Gudrun Schaumann and fortepianist Christoph Hammer present Schumann's violin sonatas, Op. 105, Op. 121, and WoO 2 along with his Op. 94 Romances for violin and piano. Family and friends are represented with Joseph Joachim's C major Romance, Bargiel's Op. 10 Sonata in F minor, and Clara's Op. 22 Three Romances. Despite the intrigue of the program itself, Schaumann and Hammer's playing is unfulfilling and forgettable. The fortepiano's sound is quite nasal and distant. Schaumann's Stradivari violin produces an uncharacteristically shrill, grating sound and is rather uneven in tone across its four strings. Her playing is lacking in smoothly connected lines, subtlety in the right arm, and flowing musical phrases and instead is angular and abrasive. Though many of these works heard here are difficult to find on other discs, this set may be appropriate only for die-hard enthusiasts of neglected repertoire.

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