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Schumann: Carnaval, Op. 9; Fantasiestucke, Op. 12; Bilder Aus Osten, Op. 66 / Pompa-Baldi, Friscioni

Schumann / Pompa-baldi
Release Date: 09/25/2012 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3177   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Antonio Pompa-BaldiEmanuela Friscioni
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Carnaval, Op. 9. Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 . Bilder aus osten, Op. 66 1 Antonio Pompa-Baldi (pn); 1 Emanuela Friscioni (pn) CENTAUR 3177 (77:36)

If you are seeking a new recording of Carnaval and/or the Read more Fantasiesücke , Antonio Pompa-Baldi, a 2001 Van Cliburn Competition finalist who has built a teaching career at the Cleveland Institute, offers more honest pianism than many others. He’s a thoughtful virtuoso whose playing is well worth getting to know, and he has many other Centaur recordings to his credit, including a complete Grieg cycle, not reviewed in Fanfare . These are uneccentric, technically strong performances of some of Schumann’s least neurotic piano music. Pompa-Baldi’s Carnaval comes across in bold primary colors, with a full sense of the music’s dashing energy, humor, and elegance where required. He plays the musical anagrams that Schumann called “Sphinxes,” a practice that I find pretentious, though Cortot and Rachmaninoff offer distinguished precedents in their recordings. (Pompa-Baldi’s booklet notes also made me aware of a 1983 Carnaval —a shambles of a performance with moments of brilliance—in which Vladimir Horowitz also plays them.) As with the innere stimme that’s notated on a separate clef in the second section of Schumann’s Humoresque , but marked “not to be played” in Clara Schumann’s edition of Robert’s piano music, the Sphinxes, according to Clara, are music for the eyes only, not the ear. Clara’s may not be the final word, but it’s worth considering, I think. More to the point, the Sphinxes aren’t notated in a way that suggests performance, nor are they even interesting to hear!

In the Fantasiestücke , Pompa-Baldi responds as well to the inwardness of Des Abends and Warum , which he plays with sincerity and simplicity, as to the speed and technical challenges of the faster pieces. All is imbued with a sense of fantasy in his superlative performance of this masterpiece. In addition to the two well-known, early solo works, Pompa-Baldi is joined by his wife, pianist Emanuela Friscioni, in the late, seldom-heard Bilder aus osten (Pictures from the East), a set of six pieces influenced by a medieval Arab epic that Schumann read in a translation by Rückert. The two pianists play with very fine ensemble and an appropriately gentle approach. It’s attractive, but tame Hausmusik that sounds about as exotic as eastern Düsseldorf. Pompa-Baldi’s piano is close-miked and Centaur’s recorded sound is bright and a little dry. More reverberance and acoustic spaciousness would have helped to add color and shading. As a comparative performance, I admire Marc-André Hamelin’s Carnaval/Fantasiestücke disc that also, logically, includes Papillons . Hyperion’s over-reverberant sound is somewhat the opposite of Centaur’s.

FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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Works on This Recording

Phantasiestücke (8) for Piano, Op. 12 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Antonio Pompa-Baldi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; Germany 
Carnaval, Op. 9 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Antonio Pompa-Baldi (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833-1835; Germany 
Impromptus (6) for Piano 4 hands, Op. 66 "Bilder aus Osten" by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Antonio Pompa-Baldi (Piano), Emanuela Friscioni (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848; Germany 

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