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Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Kreisleriana, Waldszenen, Etc / Le Sage

Release Date: 02/10/2009 
Label:  Alpha Productions   Catalog #: 135   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le SageFrank Braley
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Kreisleriana. 4 Fugues, op. 72. Fantasy Pieces, op. 12. Andante and Variations, op. 46. 1,2,3,4 6 Etudes in Canon Form (arr. Debussy). 1 Impromptus, op. 66. 1 Forest Scenes Eric Le Sage (pn); Frank Braley Read more (pn); 1 François Salque (vc); 2 Victor Julien-Lafferrière (vc); 3 Bruno Schneider (hn) 4 ALPHA 135 (2 CDs: 139:59)

Volume 6 has now been reached in Le Sage’s traversal of the complete piano and chamber-music works of Schumann, and when completed it will stand as possibly the best single series available, so consistently high is the musicality and pianism. They have been arriving as two-disc sets, and usually contain some of the well-known music along with a host of lesser lights and surprises. This set is no different, starting us off with a propulsive and well-integrated Kreisleriana (and I must say, in splendid sound, as is the whole series) while disc 1 terminates with a wonderfully varied and magical set of op. 12 Fantasy Pieces. Pairing the two is a good idea, as both originated during the betrothal years of 1837–38 (extremely difficult for the composer as he was separated from his beloved—stuck in Leipzig while she performed in Vienna), and Clara became the dedicatee of both pieces. Op. 12 is more of a collection of varied mood pieces, while Kreisleriana achieves a rare unity in stylistic coordination, even though the alternating agitated/slow pattern would suggest another round of disparate fantasies. To a certain degree, the element of fantasy is there—it is never far from Schumann’s thoughts, no matter what he is working on—but there is a degree of unity across the pieces that had to that point escaped him, a masterpiece for sure. Le Sage plays both to the hilt, perhaps a tad more convincing in the Fantasy Pieces than in the Kreisleriana , where the competition is far broader—Horowitz still mandatory listening. In between, we are given the Four Fugues , a later work (1845) composed in Dresden that has the composer longingly looking back on a form that he never rejected, yet curiously avoiding any sort of “modern” rehashing in its traditional Prelude and Fugue form, content that the latter should be able to stand on its own.

Disc 2 may well prove an ear-opener for even the most accomplished of Schumann collectors, showering us with a superb performance of the completely odd Andante and Variations , seminally projected as a Piano Trio and then, seven years later, formed into a quintet. Mendelssohn, ever the flighty one, convinced Schumann to rescore it for two pianos, two cellos, and horn in 1844, a form that has no precedent in musical history. Perhaps for that reason it languished for so long, nearly 50 years, until Brahms was able to have it published in 1893. It is a beauty and well worth hearing, the unusual scoring making for some very attractive melancholy moods and sound coloring. The Six Etudes evolved out of a desire to write for the pedal piano, brought into the Schumann household so that both Robert and Clara could practice for organ, but Robert soon developed a taste for the instrument alone, desiring to achieve a certain amount of poetic delicacy through the use of the old form. A young composer named Claude Debussy reworked the pedal-piano part in an arrangement for two pianos of the utmost finesse.

Schumann’s first composition for piano four-hands since the 1828 polonaises was the six Impromptus called “Pictures from the East” ( Bilder aus Osten ). The novelettes do indeed have an eastern tinge to the theme, and the music made a great impression on Liszt. The Forest Scenes , perhaps the most directly and overtly descriptive music that Schumann wrote, is nicely structured to illustrate the hunter’s day in the woodlands, from entrance to farewell. Le Sage is clever in a lot of his phrasing, especially the curiously clipped offbeat chords of “Lonely Flowers,” while his “Prophet Bird” sings gloriously indeed. This is maybe not as poetic, ultimately, as Richter, but it is a fine reading.

Anyone collecting this series is establishing a superb Schumann piano series in his/her home.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

Phantasiestücke (8) for Piano, Op. 12 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le Sage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; Germany 
Kreisleriana, Op. 16 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le Sage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 
Waldszenen, Op. 82 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le Sage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848-1849; Germany 
Fugues (4) for Piano, Op. 72 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le Sage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Germany 
Andante and Variations for 2 Pianos, 2 Cellos and Horn in B flat major, Op. 46 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le Sage (Piano), Frank Braley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1843; Germany 
Impromptus (6) for Piano 4 hands, Op. 66 "Bilder aus Osten" by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le Sage (Piano), Frank Braley (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848; Germany 
Etudes (6) in Canon Form for Pedal Piano, Op. 56 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Eric Le Sage (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Germany 

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