Robert Schumann‘s piano music never made much of an impression on me when I was in high school or college; it wasn’t until I began to delve into the music of Johannes Brahms as a student and listener that I began to work my way back to the music of his mentor and take a careful listen.
I don’t need to mention the plethora of world-class pianists who have championed Schumann’s most popular piano cycles, but I also find it surprising in retrospect that none of the major labels had undertaken an exhaustive survey of his solo piano music during the era of the LP. The first such series was assembled by VOX, which issued the complete published works in a series of five three-disc sets played by the much-underrated Peter Frankl during the 1960s and early ’70s.
Equally astonishing is the fact that this groundbreaking set never showed up in CD format. It is, however, now available for download, following the original order and sequence of the LPs — and here I have to make the requisite full disclosure in that Countdown Media did most of the transfers from VOX tape sources, and I filled out the missing bits from what can euphamistically be called “alternate sources.” The individual volumes are now available from the good folks at Amazon and iTunes (links below).
And speaking of Schumann, an interesting CD of new music came my way a couple of weeks ago. Pianist Susanne Kessel has made a name for herself as a champion of living composers, and I’ve been impressed by a number of her recordings, particularly California Concert on Oehms Classics. Her newest, An Robert Schumann, brings together 12 diverse short works by contemporary composers paying homage in various ways to Schumann, the centerpiece being Kreisleriana 2010, an eight-composer, eight-movement suite that is a modern complement to Schumann’s op.16. Every one of the works on this disc is worth a listen, with particularly outstanding contributionsd by composers Alex Shapiro, Leon Milo, and that underrated early godfather of minimalism, the amazing Alvin Lucier. If you have any interest in contemporary music or just plain terrific piano playing, you won’t be disappointed!
An Robert Schumann
Ulrike Haage: Fantasmagorie (Version abregée) / Christoph Israel: Milonga para acunar / Kreisleriana 2010 (Michael Denhoff: An R. Sch. – für Susanne / Sascha Janko Dragicevic: Aus nächster Ferne / Ivan Sokolov: Intermezzo / Alex Shapiro: Slowly, searching / Leon Milo: Fantaisie Electroacoustique I pour R.S. and S.K. / Moritz Eggert: Kreislerianana [aus: Hämmerklavier XXII] — II. Etwas bewegter / Alvin Lucier: SK 7 / Manfred Niehaus: 1 2 3 4 7) / Mike Lang: “… in blooming shimmer“ / Torben Maiwald: „Es wehet ein Schatten darin.“
Susanne Kessel, piano
Artistic impact: 10
Sound quality: 10
Obst P330.30 (CD; available from Susanne Kessel)