Although Robert Schumann will always command a prominent place among the 'Romantic Greats' writing music for practically every genre, it is mainly for his songs and piano pieces that posterity remembers him. The latter output can be divided in two parts; big, abstract and traditional works such as the sonatas and variations, and a creation all of his own – the Suite of small character pieces woven together by an emotional thread inspired from a literary source.
The three works on this disc pertain to the latter category, and the first item is the enchanting 'Papillons', Op. 2, his second published piece and without doubt, his first masterpiece. Schumann was a great admirer of the novelist Jean Paul and in 'Papillons' he strives to describe a masked ball contained in Paul's work, 'Flegeljahre'.
'Carnaval' Op. 9 belongs to the same world as 'Papillons' but on a broader scale. It is one of his most popular piano pieces and has been recorded by all the great pianists from Rachmaninoff onwards. The Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 is a more introvert cycle and finds its inspiration from E.T.A. Hoffmann.
In this second Hyperion recital dedicated to Schumann, Marc-André Hamelin delivers towering performances full of technical dexterity and poetic nobility. Even the inward looking moments are made to glow with a romantic aura that is quite unique. In my view, what makes Hamelin a great Schumann interpretation, is his ability to penetrate the composer's complex mind and yet avoid sentimentality. He keeps everything moving on briskly while capturing the gist of every note. Superb sound and annotations make this CD a top recommendation.
Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech