schumann etudes classicvoice

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Etudes Symphonique (Studi Sinfonici) Op.13 (1834)
Maria Gabriella Mariani (piano)
Recording details not given
No translations are provided of the notes in Italian.
ClassicVoice 284 [39]

This is a somewhat puzzling release. It is devoted to only one work, Schumann’s Etudes Symphonique Op.13, thus the playing time is less than 40 minutes. All the variations are given here, including those five described as posthumous; these are placed between numbers 10 and 16. While it is desirable to have the complete work, I feel that both it and the player would have appeared to greater advantage if it had been included as the final work in a full-length recital. The absence of an English translation of the notes, which have been written by the performer, mean that, presumably, we are denied access to her thought processes as to how she approached the work or indeed, her reasons for selecting it for this recording.

This is one of the towering monuments of the romantic piano repertory, but compared to performances by, say, Richter, Cortot and Trifonov, the individual movements appear under-characterised. This was only Schumann’s second attempt at a large-scale work for piano solo. Carnival Op.9 having been the first. To some extent the composer is still testing his compositional techniques, unlike his command of the piano writing which had never been other than exceptional, even from his earliest pieces. With Schumann his writing is never merely ‘absolute music’; almost more than any other composer his music gives one an insight into his psychology. The rapid and sharp contrasts between the individual variations seem to foreshadow the crisis which was to overwhelm him in his later years. On the basis of the performance alone I regret to say that the player does not persuade me that she has fully absorbed everything that the composer has included in the work, or if she has, she has not succeeded in communicating it to the listener. I would also have appreciated more information on the source of the edition used by the performer, since it seems to include a number of unfamiliar variants.

From the technical point of view, the playing is most accomplished and it is clear that she is more than equal to the demands of the music, but there seems to be a want of drama and emotional engagement. In addition, the recorded sound of the piano is somewhat uningratiating with a distinct lack of sonority. Taken as a whole, this is a somewhat disappointing release.

Martyn Strachan

Availability: ClassicVoice