The performances heard on this recording by the superstar duo of violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Martha Argerich do not exactly form a discrete group: the first work, Schumann's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105, was recorded live in 1998, while the rest consists of 2016 studio recordings. The 1998 performance, however, was part of a concert in Saratoga Springs, New York, that provided the stimulus for the joint recording. The Schumann sonata performance was not released at that time, and the rest of the program expands on the music it presents. It's nice to have the Schumann, which has a good deal of tension and energy. As for the rest, it's hard to point to a clear decline in the skills of either of the septuagenarian performers.
Album for the Young (Album für die Jugend), Op. 68, was composed by Robert Schumann in 1848 for his three daughters. The album consists of a collection of 43 short works. Unlike the Kinderszenen, they are suitable to be played by children or beginners. The second part, starting at Nr. 19 (Kleine Romanze), is marked Für Erwachsenere (For adults; For more grown-up ones) and contains more demanding pieces.
Robert Schumann wrote his Arabeske in C major, Op. 18 in 1839, dedicating it to Frau Majorin Friederike Serre auf Maxen, to whom he also dedicated his Blumenstück in D flat, Op. 19. In the autumn of 1838 Schumann had left Leipzig for Vienna. His relationship with Clara Wieck had reached a point of no return, as her father vehemently opposed anything that might interfere with his daughter's career as a pianist and strongly disapproved of Schumann as a possible son-in-law. Geographically yet not emotionally detached from Clara, he was able to communicate with her only through letters and in his own music. This has been proposed as an explanation for this work, which alternates passages of wistful longing with more robust, declamatory episodes.
Recordings of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, are abundant, and even the pairing with the rarer Robert Schumann Violin Concerto, WoO 23, of 1853 are not as infrequent as they used to be. The thorny Schumann concerto has undergone a reevaluation upward, and plenty of players now concur with the judgment of Yehudi Menuhin: "This concerto is the historically missing link of the violin literature; it is the bridge between the Beethoven and the Brahms concertos, though leaning more towards Brahms." Violinist Carolin Widmann who (like the ECM label on which the album appears) has focused mostly on contemporary music, takes up the challenge of providing something new here, and she meets it. The central fact of the recording is that Widmann conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from the violin. Others have done this before, but few have pursued the implications of the technique as far as Widmann has: the performances are unusually light and transparent, and they are perhaps thus in accord with the sounds an orchestra of the middle 19th century might have produced. Sample the unusually lively, sprightly reading of the Mendelssohn concerto's finale.