Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata No. 3 in f. Impromptus,
Eric Le Sage (pn)
ALPHA 110 (75:27)
Many French-trained pianists have made notable Schumann recordings, from Alfred Cortot and Yves Nat to Magda Tagliaferro, Guiomar Novaes, Reine Gianoli, Catherine Collard, Brigitte Engerer, Jean-Philippe Collard, Claire Désert, and Hélène Grimaud. Eric Le Sage, still in his early thirties, has
unquestionably joined this elite company, having already given us fine recordings of ops. 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 20, 23, 82, and 133. And in a recent recital I heard him play one of the finest performances I’ve ever heard of op. 16. He has embarked on a project to perform and record all of Schumann’s piano music by the time of the composer’s bicentennial in 2010.
Le Sage combines elements from Schumann’s two editions of op. 5 (1833 and 1850), a wise decision that other performers might emulate, for both versions contain very fine pages as well as musical lapses. Le Sage plays it with much flair and imagination, achieving some thrilling musical moments unequalled in the other versions I know, including those by Jean-Philippe Collard and Horowitz. Much the same applies to the Third Sonata, where the competition also includes Horowitz. Le Sage has more control, more fire, and more elegance in the first movement, more ardor without histrionics in the slow movement, and fabulous virtuosity in the closing pages of the finale. As for the op. 17 Fantasy, Le Sage is up against justly famous accounts by Backhaus, Sofronitsky, Curzon, Richter, Horowitz, Goode, Perahia, and Pollini. He gets a bit carried away in the outer movements, where the sound and texture are not always as finely nuanced as they should be. In the famously demanding central movement, however, he displays admirable stamina and doesn’t yield to the temptation to play too fast or too loud before the coda. The latter is thrilling, with lots of forward momentum and no sense of caution. I hope that Le Sage will return to op. 17 in a few years, when he may give us a truly sterling recording of it. Meanwhile, this disc and all his others of Schumann, have my strong endorsement.
FANFARE: Charles Timbrell
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