Tuesday 14 July 2015

Vladimir Feltsman reveals many fine pieces within Schumann’s Album for the Young on a new release from Nimbus

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) wrote his Album für die Jugend (Album for the Young), Op. 68 in 1848 for his three daughters after being dissatisfied with the quality of repertoire for children. The album consists of a collection of forty three short works. Though they are intended to be played by children or beginners, the second part, starting with Nr. 19 (Kleine Romanze), is marked Für Erwachsenere (For more grown-up ones) and contains more demanding pieces.

Though not intended for public performance it is surprising the quality of some of the pieces contained in this collection. This is demonstrated remarkably well with the performances by Vladimir Feltsman www.feltsman.com  on a new release from Nimbus www.wyastone.co.uk  

NI 6307
Feltsman is building a considerable catalogue of recordings for Nimbus with a broad repertoire including A Tribute to Rachmaninoff  (NI6148), A Tribute to Scriabin (NI6198), A Tribute to Tchaikovsky (NI6162), Beethoven Diabelli Variations (NI6257), Beethoven Piano Sonatas (NI6120), Chopin Waltzes and Impromptus (NI6184), Liszt - Bénédiction de Dieu (NI6212), Bach - The English Suites (NI6176), Bach Six Partitas (NI6207), Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition & Tchaikovsky Album for the Young (NI6211), Haydn Keyboard Sonatas (NI6242), Schnittke Sonata No.1 and Schubert Sonata 'Reliquie' (NI6284), Chopin Ballades (NI6128) and Chopin Nocturnes (NI6126) www.wyastone.co.uk/all-labels.html?instrumentalist=3090&p=1

With his first Schumann disc for Nimbus Album für die Jugend presents an interesting and in some ways a challenging choice. The opening Melodie has a lovely charm, played with an elegant simplicity before a beautifully crisp Soldatenmarsch (Soldiers' march) and a Trällerliedchen (Humming song) where the fine melody is given a lovely flow. Feltsman brings all of his fine sensibility to Ein Choral (Chorale) followed by a finely turned - Stückchen (A little piece). Armes Waisenkind (The poor orphan) is nicely phrased, showing just how fine a miniature this is. Jägerliedchen (Hunting song) is given a lovely rhythmic lift before the Wilder Reiter (The Wild Horseman) arrives at a fast pace. Volksliedchen (Folk song) is revealed here as a rather magical little piece before Fröhlicher Landmann (The merry peasant) really carries the listener along. Sicilianisch (Sicilienne) has lovely rhythms, followed by Knecht Ruprecht which sounds like a more substantial piece in this fine performance. The rather lovely Mai, lieber Mai (May, sweet May) receives a beautifully poetic performance before the limpid flow of Kleine Studie (Little study/etude). There is a beautifully phrased Frühlingsgesang (Spring song), exquisitely shaped, Erster Verlust (First loss) where Feltsman shows just what a fine touch he has, a fine no nonsense performance of Kleiner Morgenwanderer (Little morning wanderer) which strides forward to great effect before Schnitterliedchen (The reaper's song) which is brilliantly played making it more than a child’s piece.

When we arrive at the pieces ‘for more grown-up ones’ Kleine Romanze (Little romance) has a presence and stature more than one would expect. Ländliches Lied (Rustic song) is light and jolly before the lovely untitled piece in C major, based on Prison-Terzetto from Beethoven's Fidelio. Rundgesang (Roundelay) has another fine melody before Feltsman builds the galloping Reiterstück (The horseman) tremendously. Another lovely melodic piece is Ernteliedchen (Harvest song). It is beautifully played by this pianist and precedes a dramatic Nachklänge aus dem Theater (Echoes from the theatre). After a rather wistful piece in F major, Kanonisches Liedchen (A little canon) clearly shows the need for a greater degree of technical ability with Feltsman revealing a really lovely overlay of musical lines. Erinnerung (4 November 1847) (Remembrance) commemorates the date of Felix Mendelssohn's death and has the nature of a much deeper work of some beauty. After the freely shifting march rhythms of Fremder Mann (The stranger) with a lovely central section, the following untitled piece in F major is gently flowing, quite beautifully done.

Following on from Kriegslied (Song of war) with its stately syncopated rhythm, is Sheherazade, a lovely piece played here with a fine sensitivity and poetry. The skittish Weinlesezeit – ‘Fröhliche Zeit!’ (Gathering of the grapes – happy time!) must be great fun for the pianist, certainly that is the feeling given here with a fine touch and agility from Feltsman’s. There is a beautiful thoughtful Thema (Theme) followed by Mignon where Feltsman brings his fine touch to this gentle, exquisite piece, a real gem. Lied italienischer Marinari (Italian mariners' song) has a fine, forward impetus, the rather unsettling Matrosenlied (Sailors' Song) is finely conceived and there is a lovely thoughtful Winterzeit I (Wintertime I). Winterzeit II (Wintertime II) develops beautifully through some fine passages before Kleine Fuge (Little fugue) brings an unstoppable motion that quite intoxicating, especially in Feltsman’s hands, this pianist providing some lovely touches. Nordisches Lied (Northern Song – Salute to G.) is dedicated to the composer Niels Gade using the letters of his name, G-A-D-E. It is a subdued piece, finely wrought here. Figurierter Choral (Figured chorale) is a very fine piece with subtle harmonies revealed in this lovely, gentle performance before the concluding Sylvesterlied (New Year's Eve) that, like a number of pieces in this collection, could stand on its own as a mature, finely felt piece. It is played here with the most lovely phrasing and sensibility.
Schumann didn’t write down to his students rather he gave them so many fine tunes and ideas that he could easily have used elsewhere. This is music for children but, nevertheless, full of fine ideas revealed here wonderfully by Vladimir Feltsman. He brings an understated authority to these pieces and is well recorded at Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK. There are excellent booklet notes by Vladimir Feltsman.

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