Schumann
Allegro in B minor, Op.8
Gesänge der Frühe, Op.133
Kreisleriana, Op.16
Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Recorded June 2001, Herkules-Saal, Munich
CD No: DG 471 370-2
Duration:
Reviewed: October 2002
This is a lovely disc, which gave me much pleasure. It is further proof that the latest series of Pollini recordings – of which this is the second Schumann disc – combine both his long-established virtues of athletic virtuosity and Olympian far-sightedness with a new thoughtfulness and profundity.
Pollini’s Kreisleriana is best described with an adjective much applied to his early recordings – magisterial. Authoritative, confident, certain, it gives a logic and inevitability to one of Schumann’s most disturbing works that the composer himself would have envied. The very long second number is the interpretative crux of the work – it proves a Gordian knot for Pollini. By playing the slow sections at a typically brisk tempo, and acknowledging the composer’s own cuts, Pollini effortlessly prevents this movement unbalancing the work.
As the liner notes helpfully point out, Pollini is rightly interested by textual issues in Schumann; he generally restores first versions, which are now regarded as better conveying the uneasy, fragmented quality of Schumann’s thought. However, even with, for example, the hanging chord that concludes No.5 as a question, Pollini gives Kreisleriana his own signature of lucidity and aloofness.
The fillers are short measure, as now seems inevitable for a new Pollini issue, but beautifully complement the main work. The B minor Allegro is musically slight but technically robust, and looks forward to the virtuosic challenges of Kreisleriana. The ’Songs of Dawn’ are mysterious and inaccessible, a true portrait of the composer’s tortured mind in later life. Again, one might feel that Pollini makes too much sense of Schumann’s late works, that they are not nearly sinister, rhapsodic and other-worldly enough, but there is no denying their convincing, pre-Brahmsian coherence.
Be warned. This may not be your view of Schumann. If you want the last drop of tenderness, the strongest characterisation of the contrasting Eusebius and Florestan sides of the composer, you should be listening to Radu Lupu (Decca). If you think of Kreisleriana as exemplifying Schumann’s restlessness and his struggle with the mental demons that were to overcome him, then there’s Martha Argerich (also DG). Pollini’s classical view, in which the Philistines are comprehensively routed, may not be Schumann as he is, but it is certainly how he would like to have been. DG’s sound is exemplary.

 

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