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Schumann: The Complete Works For Piano, Vol. 4

Schumann / Piemontesi
Release Date: 11/09/2010 
Label:  Claves   Catalog #: 1003/04   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Francesco Piemontesi
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 44 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Piano Sonatas: Nos. 1–3. Fantasy in C Francesco Piemontesi (pn) CLAVES 50-1003/04 (2 CDs: 104:32)

Schumann’s name usually brings to mind a host of piano pieces ranging from Kreisleriana and Carnaval to the Davidsbündlertänze and the Fantasiestücke . In other words, his Read more character pieces. While these compositions are surely some of the finest of his works, even some of the best pianistic writing of the age, they often and unfairly overshadow some of his other equally interesting and hauntingly beautiful works for the instrument. The sonatas in particular have always been shortchanged in comparison. When given compelling performances by some of the great pianists of the last century, though—from Richter and Gilels to Horowitz and Gieseking—they have proven that they, too, can stand up well in the concert hall and on recordings.

Francesco Piemontesi is certainly a compelling pianist, one who has his own vision of these works. He also has the technique to master the difficulties inherent in this unique and challenging writing. The opening of the F?-Minor Sonata was somewhat of an ear-opener. I am used to hearing this melody with accompaniment in a much more passionate manner. Piemontesi certainly maintains the dramatic facet, but brings out a very slick, almost sensual aspect in the music as well. He is not afraid to use dips in dynamics à la Horowitz to help shape the melodies or just for sudden contrast, but has the good taste to never overuse the effect. The Scherzo e Intermezzo is rhythmic and driven, but is perhaps missing some of the quirkiness that the movement offers. His way with the G-Minor Sonata’s Andantino is simple and flowing. It is never so slow as to feel static, yet has enough of a forward impetus to give direction to the movement. The final Presto is perhaps the best movement of the sonata. Its contrasts are palpable, from the nervous energy of the opening to the more relaxed and beautifully colored melodies of the following section (just listen to the contrast at 0:22 from the opening bars!). The F-Minor Sonata’s variations, often played out of their original context in the sonata, show all of the pianist’s capabilities and talents in one movement: good pacing, beautifully shaped melodies, good sense of counterpoint, and characterization between the individual sections. Though the most competition comes in the Fantasy, Piemontesi holds his own. His opening has an expansive sound, one that captures the heartfelt and inner turmoil of the movement. The second movement is characterized by a refined joy, here missing the exuberant rapture and ecstasy that is inherent in its nature. The following movement begins with a ghostly sonority. This thin sound produces a misty effect, in which the pianist delicately places the melody. This is extraordinary playing. Again, the movement has just the right sense of pacing that never allows dragging, yet drives the music to its delicate closing.

While I still like certain individual performances of these works better (both Horowitz and Richter in the Fantasy, Gilels in the F?-Minor Sonata, Hamelin in the G Minor) none of them offer all of these works on a single recording. Though these performances perhaps lack a bit of the quirkiness and passion that is a distinguishing feature of these works, they compensate with an elegance, a coolness, a sensuality, that all make for a downright confident and compelling approach. Perhaps they are less the Schumann that we know, or know yet, but they work. And with performances of this caliber from a pianist still so young, one can only look forward to future projects with anticipated enthusiasm. Recommended without reservation.

FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Francesco Piemontesi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832-1835; Germany 
Venue:  Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 27 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 22 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Francesco Piemontesi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833-1838; Germany 
Venue:  Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 17 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Phantasie for Piano in C major, Op. 17 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Francesco Piemontesi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836-1838; Germany 
Venue:  Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 32 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Sonata for Piano no 3 in F minor, Op. 14 "Concert sans orchestre" by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Francesco Piemontesi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835-1836; Germany 
Venue:  Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 26 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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