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Schumann: Kreisleriana; Etudes Symphoniques

Schumann / Swartzentruber
Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Solo Records   Catalog #: 3   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Mark Swartzentruber
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Kreisleriana. Symphonic Etudes. Symphonic Etudes: Appendix Mark Swartzentruber (pn) SOLO 3 (71:45)

Solo Records is a vanity company created by pianist Mark Swartzentruber, a native of Washington, D.C., who studied with John Ogdon and Michel Block in the U.S. before moving to London to study with Maria Curcio. He seems to spend most of his time in Europe now, and his recordings have been generally well received there. This appears to be Read more his first Fanfare appearance. For this recording he has enlisted some of the best—piano tuner Peter Salisbury, engineer Tony Faulkner, and the venue of Henry Wood Hall. His intention is to make “state-of-the art recordings in fine, natural acoustics” according to the Solo website.

Swartzentruber is a strong middle-of-the-road player. Nothing on this recording sets me on fire, but neither does it send me straight to the Mute button. He does nothing wrong and much that is right, and anyone in possession of this disc will have a happy and satisfying experience on his or her hands. But it doesn’t push the envelope either, and any number of recordings (Argerich in Kreisleriana and Hamelin in the Symphonic Etudes, just for starters) find more and probe more than Swartzentruber. I like the sound he gets; while I am not sure I would consider this a state-of-the-art recording, it does have a lot of analog-like warmth to it that is sure to please diehards and anti-digitalists.

Technically Swartzentruber is up to speed on the most demanding passages of Kreisleriana , that tour-de-force that Schumann blazed through in only four days, in a reading that is curiously satisfying without being exploratory. The Symphonic Etudes, the most tinkered-with piece in the Schumann canon—by the composer himself—is more adventurous yet still steady as a rock and noncontroversial in any way. Schumann had eliminated half of the 12 variations at one point (after having already jettisoned five more), though the standard 12 met the Clara-cut when he finally decided to publish it. One can safely assume that this is what the composer wanted. But—and there is always a big one with this composer—the five original dumpees contain perhaps the most beautiful music! So performers today are faced with a creative dilemma—intersperse the five rejects not knowing how Schumann would have intended them, leave them out altogether, or, as here, include them as an appendix. None of these choices are satisfactory ultimately, and every time I hear them in appendix form I wish they had been included in the standard set. Fortunately there are some recordings that do this, but I doubt a perfectly acceptable solution will ever be found. In any case, Swartzentruber plays them well and I am glad he included them on this disc.

Any reasonable person will find this disc enjoyable. Just know that there is more to be found.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

Kreisleriana, Op. 16 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Mark Swartzentruber (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 32 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Symphonic Etudes for Piano, Op. 13 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Mark Swartzentruber (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837/1852; Germany 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 25 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Symphonic Etudes for Piano, Op. 13: Posthumous Variations (5) by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Mark Swartzentruber (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1852; Germany 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 10 Minutes 46 Secs. 

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