Concert Reviews | CD Reviews | DVD Reviews | Opera | Early Music | News | Film | Art | Books | Kids

30.8.07

Uchidiana

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Schumann, Kreisleriana (Carnaval), Mitsuko Uchida
(remastered August 14, 2007)
Kreisleriana:
available at Amazon
Maurizio Pollini


available at Amazon
Martha Argerich


available at Amazon
Radu Lupu


available at Amazon
Vladimir Horowitz
When it comes to Schumann's Kreisleriana, Jens has already declared that the search for the perfect recording ends with Maurizio Pollini, and far be it from me to disagree with that recommendation. It is the set of Schumann character pieces with which I feel the least connected, probably because I have not spent hours in the practice room struggling to make it sound not awful. Recent perusal of the online score has reminded me of just how difficult Schumann's writing can be, with all those tangled lines at impossible distances from one another. The piece's namesake, Johannes Kreisler, was the manic-depressive composer-hero of three of E. T. A. Hoffmann's novels. Schumann, who compartmentalized his own personality into manic (heroic Florestan) and depressed (moony Eusebius) characters, likely identified with Kreisler. The challenge, beyond the technical demands of picking out the melody from the wash of arpeggiation, is to capture the bipolar contrasts.

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.

available at Amazon
Murray Perahia
available at Amazon
András Schiff
available at Amazon
Till Fellner

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.

Philips B000943602

4 comments:

stephanie said...

When it comes to Schumann's Kreisleriana, Jens has already declared that the search for the perfect recording ends with Maurizio Pollini, and far be it from me to disagree with that recommendation.

You and Jens should have probably listened to the Horowitz's recording more attentively.

Charles T. Downey said...

The Horowitz is excellent, no doubt about it, and it is featured in my selection. What about Horowitz's reading do you find makes it the best?

Anonymous said...

A big surprise awaits those who can find the Arrau Heritage box (available from Buywell in Australia) of Schumann, which includes MOST of the composer's piano works in splendid performances recorded by Arrau for Philips in the '60s and '70s. Quite a Kreisleriana, too.

Charles T. Downey said...

Thanks for the Arrau tip.