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Schumann, Kreisleriana (Carnaval), Mitsuko Uchida (remastered August 14, 2007)
The remastered version of Mitsuko Uchida's Kreisleriana, released earlier this month, has provided the opportunity to reassess another excellent reading (made in 1994 at Snape Maltings). The melodies are perfectly etched in Uchida's singing tone, voiced resonantly among whirring clouds, in both forceful and wispy sections (compare the A and B sections of the first movement, for example). In the second intermezzo of the second movement, she nestles the melody cleanly in the center of the figuration, and captures the chimeric quality of the Langsamer section. The most taxing movements, probably the fourth and seventh, are nothing short of stunning, especially the sequences of the latter, purled out with seeming effortlessness.
The market is glutted with extraordinary recordings of Kreisleriana, a selection of which are shown here. Uchida is the one that could challenge Pollini the most, paired as it is with her equally good Carnaval (in many ways a more accessible piece) and now considerably reduced in price. Based on this review from Paris, I have a little dream that Mikhail Pletnev is planning to record the work: he is playing it in recital lately, so we can speculate wildly. It is not an enviable situation for a young pianist who wants to make an impression with Kreisleriana, as the Curtis-trained Jonathan Biss did earlier this year for EMI. Not only does Biss's Kreisleriana suffer by comparison, but Pletnev has recorded a much more interesting (if slightly odd) reading of the Fantasy in C, op. 17, in his 2004 Schumann disc on DG.