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Robert Schumann: Romance At The Piano / Ho Yan Agnes Wan

Schumann / Wan
Release Date: 03/12/2013 
Label:  Soundset   Catalog #: 1047   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Yo Yan Agnes Wan
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Kinderszenen. Kreisleriana. 3 Fantasy Pieces, Op. 111 Ho Yan Agnes Wan (pn) SOUNDSET 1047 (67: 44)

Hong Kong native and a finalist and award winner at a number of prestigious competitions, Agnes Wan (aka Agnes Wan-Patterson) holds degrees from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Loyola University New Orleans, and the University of Iowa where she obtained her doctorate of musical arts in piano performance and pedagogy. She also holds an artist diploma from the Read more University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

The works Wan has chosen for this, her debut album, have, of course, been essayed countless times on record by pianists from A to Z, literally. Schumann’s Kinderszenen alone easily enjoys nearly 200 recordings. Kreisleriana is not that far behind with over 150. Only the three Fantasy Pieces, op. 111, lag behind with a mere 25 versions to choose from. Wan has thus demonstrated a boldness born either of over-confidence or an unconcern for the possibility—nay, the likelihood—that hers will simply be an unrecognized name lost amidst a very long list of others, some equally unfamiliar.

Wan cannot be blamed for wanting to play this music, for it’s a pianist’s dream, but I cannot help but wonder if it’s not a wiser course to establish one’s celebrity first by offering a program of works less well explored on disc, and then turn to the well-trod repertoire heard here, once you’ve achieved name recognition and people know who you are.

I submit this unsolicited advice to Wan with the best of intentions, for her Schumann album, titled Romance at the Piano , is indeed beautifully done. But recognizing the harsher realities of the record industry and how competitive the field is, I fear that Wan’s effort, regardless of how successful it is, will become a casualty of sheer numbers.

All I can do as a critic is to inform the reader that Wan plays these Schumann pieces as expressively and poetically as anyone I’ve heard, always placing her technical mastery at the service of Schumann’s ever-inventive musical imagination. This is an especially well-presented recital, as beautifully played as it is recorded.

At the moment (March 2013), I don’t find this disc listed on any of the regular retail sites, but it can be purchased either in CD form or as a download direct from Soundset at soundset.com/cd_detail.php?disc=162; and as much for your sake as for Wan’s, I’d urge you to obtain a copy of it. You won’t be disappointed; I promise.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Phantasiestücke (3) for Piano, Op. 111 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Yo Yan Agnes Wan (Piao)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Germany 
Kreisleriana, Op. 16 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Yo Yan Agnes Wan (Piao)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 
Kinderszenen, Op. 15 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Yo Yan Agnes Wan (Piao)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 

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