Philippe Herreweghe directs these Schumann concertos with severity and urgency, with an impact that's particularly strong in the opening movement of the A minor piano concerto. The soloist is Andreas Staier, who plays a mid-19th century J.B. Streicher instrument. But it's not just the use of period instruments (this is certainly the kind of piano Schumann would have known) that proves so fascinating here; rather, it's the minutely detailed way in which soloist and conductor interact during this performance. Note, for instance, how astutely Herreweghe's wind players articulate the sorrowful first subject group after the soloist's opening salvo, a passage that sets the tone for all that follows. Dotted notes are exactly in time, neitherRead more clipped nor deliberately extended and fussed over. And dots or lines added above rising note-groups also are correctly observed, so the first movement's main theme isn't made to sound ponderous, but rather lithe and mobile, with a character more varied than we usually hear.
Staier plays the solo part impressively (the big cadenza in the first movement is superb), and the fact that he often seems to be struggling to produce sufficient weight of tone, even against the relatively small orchestral forces, isn't necessarily a drawback, but rather a vindication of the novel approach taken here. Schumann wouldn't have expected to hear the piano coming through as powerfully as we're used to in dialogue sections with orchestra anyway. And in the slow movement, it's the delicacy and lightness that impress, with vibrato-less cellos sounding miraculously clear in their big melody, and Staier's interjections heightening the chamber-like effect achieved in this intermezzo before a jubilantly agile finale. It's a very fine performance indeed, brimming over with unexpected points of detail too numerous to describe here. If you're keen to hear the Schumann concerto in a setting that can't be too far removed from what the composer envisioned, this will satisfy very well, and it's a huge advance on the Newport Classic account from Thomas Lorango with the New Brandenburg Collegium.
Christophe Coin's version of the A minor cello concerto is a performance of stirring endeavour, but here you'll probably miss the fuller sonority of a modern instrument far more than in the piano concerto. Still, if you're interested in experiencing both works in an unfamiliar setting, this beautifully engineered disc is worth hearing. For strongly characterized and secure conventional versions of these works, try Sony's highly recommendable identical coupling with Murray Perahia, Yo-Yo Ma, and the Bavarian RSO under Colin Davis. This has just been reissued at mid-price, making an interesting foil to the above Harmonia Mundi disc.
--Michael Jameson, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Cello in A minor, Op. 129by Robert Schumann
Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 54by Robert Schumann
Andreas Staier (Fortepiano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1841-1845; Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Good. Others are better.March 10, 2014By Dr. Mitchell Gurk (Spencer, MA)See All My Reviews"After hearing Murray Perahia with Bernard Haitink and the BSO perform the Schumann concerto, one for the ages, i bought several to compare against that unique listen. The grabber for this one was the fortepiano, but the sound was not noticeably different from the piano grand in other performances that are more poetic or definitive. Yet everything is here and it would be a fine single choice."Report Abuse