Schumann - Violin Concerto, Piano Trio no.3
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMC902196
Format: CD + DVD
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 9th March 2015
ArtistsIsabelle Faust (violin)
Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello)
Alexander Melnikov (piano)
In the autumn of 1851 Schumann composed, in rapid succession, the two violin sonatas and, in the space of just seven days from 2 to 9 October, the Piano Trio no.3, Op.110. As always during his work, Schumann was oblivious to everything around him, neglected social obligations, and isolated himself – even from Clara. ‘Robert is working very assiduously on a trio for piano, violin, and cello’, she confided to her diary, ‘but he won’t let me hear anything of it until he has quite finished it – all I know is that it’s in G minor.’
This trio, like all his other chamber works with piano, was tailor-made for Clara to play and right from the first rehearsal session in the domestic circle she went into a veritable frenzy of delight: ‘It is original, absolutely full of passion, especially the scherzo, which sweeps one away to the wildest depths’.
Just a little bit of that same enthusiasm would probably have spared the Violin Concerto a great deal of opprobrium: Clara withheld the score, as did the dedicatee, Joachim. It was finally premiered in Berlin on 26 November 1937, more than 80 years after it was composed, with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karl Böhm and the violinist Georg Kulenkampff. Yehudi Menuhin had the privilege of making the first commercial recording, produced in the following year, 1938, with the New York Philharmonic under its British principal conductor John Barbirolli.
This first volume in a trilogy comprising the complete concertos and piano trios of Schumann brings together two late and unjustly neglected works. The instigators of the project, Isabelle Faust, Alexandre Melnikov and Jean-Guihen Queyras, champion their cause with a force of conviction and a choice of instruments that restore the delicate transparency and subtlety of their textures.
"The idea for this CD project arose during a tour on which we performed Robert Schumann’s Trio Op.80. As passionate admirers of the composer, we conceived the desire to place his works for piano, violin and cello in a broader context and to illuminate them mutually in order to allow listeners to gain a deeper understanding of his music. We soon agreed to play the pieces for this recording on a historical piano and stringed instruments with gut strings, using orchestral forces to match. Pablo Heras-Casado and the Freiburger Barockorchester sprang spontaneously to mind as the ideal partners for a project of this kind. Our shared journey into the magical world of this incomparable composer will remain with us as an exceptionally intense, happy, and fulfilling experience." - Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Jean-Guihen Queyras.
1Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO23 - I. In kraftigem, nicht zu schnellem Tempo
2Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO23 - II. Langsam
3Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO23 - III. Lebhaft, doch nicht schnell
4Piano Trio no.3 in G minor, op.110 - I. Bewegt, doch nicht zu rasch
5Piano Trio no.3 in G minor, op.110 - II. Ziemlich langsam
6Piano Trio no.3 in G minor, op.110 - III. Rasch
7Piano Trio no.3 in G minor, op.110 - IV. Kraftig, mit Humor
Hidden from the musical public for more than eight decades after its composition, and suppressed by both his widow Clara and the intended soloist Joachim, Schumann's Violin Concerto of 1853 has enjoyed slow recognition since its long-delayed première in 1937, and a steadily increasing number of commercial recordings in recent decades. Yet it has never really won the hearts of audiences as the other great violin concertos have. This new recording by Isabelle Faust and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra under Pablo Heras-Casado, however, is sure to win it new admirers, and to offer fresh perspectives to those who already know it.
By using a classically-sized orchestra on period instruments, this performance not only resolves problems of balance in the outer movements, where solo and orchestra frequently intertwine, but also bring a chamber-music clarity and poetry to music that can often seem overblown or artificially restrained.
The opening movement, taken quite rightly at a measured tempo, derives its energy from the chugging triplets of the inner strings, which here emerge with tremendous clarity. While the main theme is strikingly demonstrative, the second subject is a poetic marvel. There are some gorgeous woodwind solos in the beautifully reflective development section, and Isabelle Faust's seemingly effortless solo passagework never struggles to be heard in the entirely natural balance.
Under her hands the slow movement is a dreamlike intermezzo of gossamer delicacy in which the dynamics barely rise above pianissimo. The chamber-like qualities of the playing achieve a trance-like beauty that should quash, once and for all, notions of the work's supposed 'difficulty'. The last movement, a delightfully poised polonaise with moments of Mendelssohnian lightness alongside the ballroom grandeur, has real grace and vigour in this surprisingly infectious performance.
Dating from two years earlier, the great G minor Piano Trio is one of Schumann's most assured chamber works, a masterpiece of musical integration. Here Isabelle Faust, on her 'Sleeping Beauty' Stradivarius, is joined by Jean-Guihen Queyras playing a 1696 cello by Gioffredo Cappa and Alexander Melnikov on an 1847 piano by the renowned Viennese manufacturer Johann Baptist Streicher. The recording, made at the Teldex Studio in Berlin, allows the instruments plenty of room to blossom and blend. The ideal balance is heard to best effect in the limpid outer sections of the slow movement, while the first movement, scherzo and finale all show abundant character: no wonder that Clara Schumann, for whom the work was intended, was so enthusiastic about it.
With performances of such superb quality, this new Schumann project is certainly one to watch – and of course, listen to! Warmly recommended.
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