Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 1; No. 2; No. 3
Carlo Grante (pn)
MUSIC & ARTS 1220 (79:16)
We don’t get the three sonatas on one disc too often; as you can see from the timing, these apples barely fit into the barrel. So on one plane of gratitude we must acknowledge Carlo Grante’s efforts in this regard. His playing has also been generally well received in these pages, though if one searches the article archives, a preponderance of relatively unknown material predominates. Recording Schumann is definitely a
step into the mainstream, and as such the requirements get a little tougher for the discerning record collector, though again, convenience cannot be easily overestimated.
But many will, in the case of the sonatas, attempt to make the argument that grouping them together is a silly exercise anyway, since, well, the Schumann sonatas aren’t really
anyway, are they? I guess it all depends on what your definition of sonata is, and whether juxtaposed
, origins can ultimately constitute the same sort of name that fits a form that Mozart would have easily recognized. The No. 1, for instance, began life as an interpolation from his op. 4 Intermezzos, used as the middle Scherzo movement. A later Fandango, composed the same year, would join the conglomeration as the rather sophisticated first movement. So already we are left wondering whether “sonata” is telling-true or simply an afterthought because no better title came to mind.
Sonata No. 2 started life as a concerto without piano; it was to see at least three other incarnations. In the second edition, a Scherzo fourth movement was added, with significant revisions to movement 1. This edition on the present recording uses the added Scherzo, but retains the first thoughts of the original first movement. This is a rather crazy work (in a wonderful way) that features a unique “Clara” theme in the third movement, followed by a series of variations, and the superimposed contrasting rhythms of the last movement making it especially appealing to a composer like Brahms, who adored it. The final sonata had its origins before the other two, but was completed later. Clara herself thought it “not too incomprehensible,” but admitted that the public and critics didn’t understand it. It is the least popular of the sonatas, but even so has much to offer the Schumann-starved.
But getting back to the original question, are these real sonatas? In the end, yes, for they do follow the form more or less closely, even though Schumann felt as if he were storytelling in the most basic narrative sense of the word, while using the Classical structure as a basis for his methodology. In the end, we don’t really care though, for the music is too engaging and rewarding to be overly concerned with the formal scaffolding that Schumann uses to present it to us.
I admire very much Carlo Grante’s recent release on this same label of piano concertos by Mozart, using the Godowsky cadenzas. His playing there is clean, efficient, well rounded tonally, and masculine, while avoiding any sort of hard edge. I find much of the same approach on this album. It is some of the driest Schumann I have ever heard, Grante seeming to forego pedal unless absolutely necessary, and when he does use it, there is such a judicious and economical application that you still come away amazed at how well some of the inner lines of Schumann’s always-critical middle voices are heard. On the other hand, when I listen to the likes of Earl Wild (Sonata 1) or Marc-André Hamelin (Sonata 2), I find a certain flair and wildness that I am missing here, where the confines of ultimate control dominate all conceptions. And Eric Le Sage’s ongoing series (the three sonatas already out and available) sport more resonant and deeply felt sound than what Music &Arts gives us here. Nonetheless, I am reluctant to rain on Grante’s parade, as what he does here is quite admirable and will find many takers. I count myself among them, even if my ultimate requirements need a little more moisture.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Piano no 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11 by Robert Schumann
Carlo Grante (Piano)
Written: 1832-1835; Germany
Studies for Sonata for Piano no 3 in F minor, Op. 14 "Concert sans orchestre" by Robert Schumann
Carlo Grante (Piano)
Sonata for Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 22 by Robert Schumann
Carlo Grante (Piano)
Written: 1833-1838; Germany
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11: I. Introduzione: Un poco adagio - Allegro vivace
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11: II. Aria
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11: III. Scherzo: Allegrissimo - Intermezzo - Lento
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11: IV. Finale: Allegro un poco maestoso
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 14: I. Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 14: II. Scherzo
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 14: III. Quasi variazioni: Andantino de Clara Wieck
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 14: IV. Prestissimo possibile
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22: I. So rasch wir moglich
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22: II. Andantino
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22: III. Scherzo
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22: IV. Rondo: Presto
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