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26 June, 2013

Robert Schumann
Recommended Recordings



"Music is the outflow of a beautiful mind."

Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, Humoreske
(Radu Lupu)
This marvelous disc won all sorts of international awards when it was first issued a few years ago, and with good reason. Radu Lupu is a very special pianist. He doesn't record all that often, and he doesn't appear in concert all that frequently, either, owing to his reluctance to travel. He has long been regarded as one of the supreme interpreters of Schubert, but he is equally persuasive in this Schumann recital. He brings to this music his typically gentle, lovely piano tone, an acute sensitivity to the music's many moods, and most important of all, that sense of innocence and romantic poetry that gives Schumann's music its uniqueness. A great recording. (review by David Hurwitz)

Piano Concerto, etc
(Sviatoslav Richter; Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra; Witold Rowicki and Stanislaw Wislocki conducting)
If you want to judge a pianist's versatility, listen to his or her recording of the Schumann Piano Concerto. It requires virtually everything a pianist should have to offer: poetry, virtuosity, expansive expression alternating with poised restraint. What a glorious test piece this is. Richter, who was famous for his Schumann playing, passes every test here. His meltingly beautiful delivery of Schumann's melodies touches the heart, and his execution of the most difficult passages is so smooth and effortless that it never calls a bit of attention to itself. In this piece and the Introduction and Allegro, the excellent orchestra also covers itself with glory. The solo pieces are no less wonderful. The way Richter plays the difficult Toccata is almost scary in its combination of power and velocity. The Forest Scenes is a slightly older recording (1956) than the others (1958), but it still sounds lovely. Catch Richter's whirlwind playing of "Traumes-Wirren" and you'll understand right away why other pianists had such respect for his technique. Listen to his "Prophet Bird" and he'll touch your heart. (review by Leslie Gerber)

Schumann: Liederkreis Op 39, Romanzen & Balladen
(Bryn Terfel, Malcolm Martineau)
Robert Schumann's lieder comprise one of the richest outpourings of early romanticism. They pivot from typically Schumanesque dark, introspective beauty to nature paeans and outbursts of yeaning love--in short, they're like a microcosm of the chief obsessions of the romantic artist. And the organ-sonorous depth of Bryn Terfel's voice is in splendid form here, varying to match the composer's many moods

The Symphonies
(Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Leonard Bernstein, conductor)
Leonard Bernstein was full of surprises. A conductor often accused of hopeless self-indulgence, he responded intuitively to the classical aesthetic of Haydn, and no less to the early Romantic bravado of Schumann. In fact, these symphonies have never been better played or conducted than they are here. These are performances of high passion--they're either very fast or very slow--and extraordinary color and drama. Bernstein sticks faithfully to the composer's original, thick orchestrations but makes each symphony work through playing of unflagging clarity and chamber music-like balance. That this was all done live, in performances of such wide emotional range, is amazing. But amazing was what Bernstein did best. (review by David Hurwitz)

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