Schiff brings intimacy to early Schumann

András Schiff relishes the big gestures in four early Schumann works, but also brings a tenderness to this lovely recording.

Composer: Schumann
Repertoire:  Papillons; Piano Sonata No.1; Kinderszenen; Fantasie in C major; Waldszenen; Ghost Variations

Artists: András Schiff (pf)
Rating:  5/5
Genre: Instrumental
Label: ECM New Series 4763909

The Music: A lovely two-disc set of four early Schumann works, the later nine little tone poems of Waldszenen, and his last work, the so-called ‘Ghost Variations’. Schumann broke off while composing these to try and commit suicide by throwing himself into the Rhine.

The Performance: Recorded in a rather dry acoustic, András Schiff brings a touching intimacy to the suites of short character pieces that make up Papillons, Kinderszenen and Waldszenen, while relishing the grander gestures of the First Piano Sonata. But it is the last movement of the C major Fantasie that makes this absorbing release more so, for Schiff plays Schumann’s original ending of the third movement (he tracked it down in the 1970s) which returns to the same Beethoven quote that ends the first movement.

The Verdict: You might agree with Schiff (and me) that his first thought was the more inspired. If not, he also includes the standard ending as the final item on the disc. The musicological aspect aside, this remains a distinguished release.

Want more? More penetrating, intelligent Schumann on another two-disc set from Schiff is on ECM (472 1192).