Claudio Arrau recorded these concertos twice for Philips, the present performances in 1963, and then again in 1980 with Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony. There's very little to choose between them. Tempos are almost identical, and contrary to what one might expect, the slow movement of the Schumann concerto is actually a bit faster in the later version. Arrau's way with the music is wholly characteristic of the man: serious, even reverential (at the beginning of the Schumann), and played with drop-dead gorgeous tone. The result enhances the stature of both works, but the Grieg in particular. The climax of the finale has an epic grandeur without a hint of bombast that you simply won't find in any other performance. Dohnányi's accompaniments are also distinguished: he lets Arrau lead but isn't afraid to permit the orchestra to assert itself where necessary; and of course the playing of the Concertgebouw is top-notch. If you haven't heard Arrau in this music, it really doesn't matter which of his recordings you wind up with, but do try to get at least one of them.
Mark Padmore and fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout combine here to perform two of Schumann’s major cycles to words by Heine. They also throw in a selection of five Heine settings by the largely forgotten Franz Lachner (1803-90) from his Sängerfahrt (Singer’s Journey), which include the same text – ‘Im wunderschönen Monat Mai’ – with which Schumann’s Dichterliebe begins.
A remarkably intimate recording of Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor, this performance by Anne Gastinel and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, directed by Louis Langrée, may be a little too forward for the average listener's comfort. Direct Stream Digital engineering places Gastinel front and center – almost in one's living room – and the orchestra is not far behind. Such "living presence" may be an audiophile's delight, but others may find the proximity disconcerting, especially because Gastinel's bowing seems overly resinous up close. However, this is the only complaint worth making about this disc, for Gastinel is wonderfully expressive and the orchestra is extraordinarily balanced and clear in its timbres, no mean achievement in Schumann's problematic, thick orchestration. The remaining performances are less forwardly recorded and sound pleasant and natural, with a fresh spontaneity that feels more like a recital than a studio session.
Schumann’s literary sensibility was exceptionally receptive to the ideas of fantasy and fairy tale. His poetic Hausmusik – music for domestic consumption – represents a motion from the outer to the inner world. This recording explores these affiliations in a unique way as most of the performances are the first to have been recorded on period instruments.