Cassard's first-class Schumann

The fearsome demands of Schumann's piano works hold no fear for the awe-inspiring Philippe Cassard on this essential disc

Composer: Schumann
Repertoire: Piano works
Artists: Philippe Cassard
Rating:  5/5 
Genre: Instrumental
Label: Ambroisie AMB 9961 

On this evidence, Philippe Cassard is nowhere near as big a name as he should be. The world-class level of his performances is unmistakable from the very first moments of the Fantasiestücke, Op.12: an instant impression is made by the sound he conjures from the instrument – mellow, full, rounded, with firepower of the kind that doesn’t bruise the ear, a range of soft shadings to match, and no trace of the clangorous, sharp-edged tone that so many of his colleagues reckon on getting away with. His interpretations have a level of artistry that speaks for itself. Schumann’s torrentially difficult passagework resembles Bach on crack cocaine; yet these fearsome demands cause Cassard no problems whatever, and nor is there any self-congratulatory slickness in his response. His way with the music’s sudden moodswings is unerring and unexaggerated; the simple moments – like the ‘Sleeping Child’ of Kinderszenen – are hauntingly captured. The rarity here is the Humoreske, Op.15 – a situation explained to some extent by the music’s serious difficulty but not by its wonderful range of ideas and the free-flowing way that Schumann assembles them. Cassard reveals the work as a substantial and neglected masterpiece. 

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