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.
Firma Melodiya continues the series of compact discs dedicated to December Evenings Festival that takes place at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. This album, like the previous one, is dedicated to the 1985 festival World of Romanticism and includes recordings featuring Sviatoslav Richter. The atmosphere of December Evenings, an event initiated by the great pianist, differed from usual philharmonic concerts. The spirit of music as an inseparable part of "fusion of arts" the romanticists dreamt of was invisibly felt in each number; a sensitive listener can catch it in these, perhaps technically imperfect, concert recordings from thirty years ago. The works by Schubert, Schumann and Chopin were performed by Sviatoslav Richter in ensemble with his outstanding contemporaries, violinist and David Oistrakh's student Oleg Kogan who passed away prematurely, violist Yuri Bashmet, cellist Natalia Gutman and clarinettist Anatoly Kamyshov.
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.
"The years spent by Robert Schumann and his Clara in Dresden were a time of perfect happiness, and in 1849 the composer, like a teenager, presented his dearest with a Romanze pervaded by intense passion. An outstanding recording of Schumann’s complete works for violoncello and piano from this time transports us up to the couple’s seventh heaven. The Schumann specialist Aya Ishihara plays Clara’s role at a Steinway grand piano (1901), and her experienced duo partner Klaus Storck is heard as the emotionally profound cellist playing an Italian “Spiritus Sorsana” cello (made in 1730 in Cunei)…"
"… it’s music that we can never know well enough, especially in revelatory performances like these. The playing thrives on a close, intense and uncannily natural ambience (all except the violin sonatas were recorded in the Lutheran Church of Saint Catherine, St. Petersburg, Russia). Philip Borg-Wheeler’s liner notes make absorbing reading." ~audiophile-audition
Marc-André presents a fascinating juxtaposition of two composers who are not obviously musically related, but who are proved on this album to be a felicitous combination. Schumann’s well-loved Kinderszenen (‘Scenes from childhood’) cycle is a masterpiece: each piece is as deftly and exquisitely crafted as anything in his more outwardly sophisticated mode. From the haunting beauty of the opening ‘From foreign lands and people’ (‘Von fremden Ländern und Menschen’), via the spare eloquence of the central ‘Dreaming’ (‘Träumerei’), to the quiet rhetoric of ‘The poet speaks’ (‘Der Dichter spricht’), the listener is taken through nuances of emotion whose effects are heartrendingly poignant.