Saturday 30 April 2016

Absolutely terrific performances of Schumann’s Cello Concerto and Piano Trio No.1 from cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov concluding their Schumann Trilogy for Harmonia Mundi

Harmonia Mundi have just released the final instalment of their Schumann Trilogy project conceived by cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras , violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist  Alexander Melnikov whereby his works for piano, violin and cello could be placed in a broader context by recording each with one of the composer’s concertos.

They soon decided to play the works on these recordings using historical instruments, fortepiano, stringed instruments with gut strings and orchestral forces to match. Pablo Heras-Casado and the Freiburger Barockorchester were chosen as the partners for this project.

This first volume brought these artists together for Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor coupled with the Piano Trio no.3 op.110 (1 CD + DVD - HMC902196). Next came the Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54 with the Piano Trio No.2 in F major, Op.80 (1 CD + DVD - HMC902198).

Now from Harmonia Mundi comes Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129 with the Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.63 which, as with the two previous releases in this series, comes with a bonus DVD.

HMC 902197

The year 1850 was a good one for Robert Schumann (1810-1856), a year that brought the completion of his Faust music, his songs Opp. 77, 83, 87, 89, 90 and 96, his Symphony in E flat major ‘Rhenish’ and his Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129.

Here Jean-Guihen Queyras weaves some lovely textures with the Freiburger Barockorchester in the opening of the concertos Nicht zu schnell, rising through a vibrant, beautifully transparent orchestral passage, bringing some exquisite moments as he finds his way through Schumann’s twists and turns. He provides lightly sprung timbres with both he and the orchestra alive to every dynamic. They often bring a chamber like intimacy to this music with some beautifully shaped phrases and a fine, close partnership between soloist and orchestra. Queyras brings a playful sense of enjoyment as he shapes and springs some of the little phrases. Pablo Heras-Casado and the orchestra bring some beautifully Schumannesque broader orchestral passages before gently slipping into the second movement.

Queyras provides a lovely gentle cello line over a quietly rhythmic orchestra in the Langsam, this cellist drawing some lovely slowly drawn textures, finding a real sense of wonder as he reveals every nuance and detail before subtly finding a rhythm to lead into the final movement, Sehr lebhaft where cellist and orchestra find a lovely buoyant gently sprung rhythm.  Queyras’ textures, sonorities and dynamics bring this music alive. He has a terrific dialogue with the orchestra whose accompaniment is quite wonderful with some wonderfully vibrant, incisive passages. There is a beautifully done accompanied cadenza where this soloist reveals so many subtleties, before leading quickly to a fine coda.

The Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op.63 dates from 1847, the year that also brought the Piano Trio No.2 in F major, Op.80. Alexander Melnikov, Isabelle Faust and Jean-Guihen Queyras bring a finely undulating opening to the Mit Energie und Leidenschaft, with a lovely rubato. As the music rises in passion, a terrific ensemble is revealed as they shape and vary the music to bring out every nuance. Their use of dynamics is superb with the textures of these period instruments adding much. They rise through passages of volatile emotion bringing a quite wonderful blending of textures and timbres. Part way there is a quite lovely hushed passage, beautifully controlled. This trio bring a tremendous emotional strength with fine taut shaping of phrases. Lebhaft, doch nicht zu rasch moves off full of energy and rhythmic buoyancy, these players finding a terrific swagger. They are not only top rate soloists on their own account but they also show their tremendous, instinctive collaborative abilities right up to the beautifully shaped coda.

The violin and piano bring an exquisitely gentle opening to the third movement Langsam, mit inniger Empfindung before the trio slowly and subtly weave Schumann’s fine textures. This trio find a lovely flow with a subtle and gentle swell before leading to the most wonderfully controlled coda and straight into the concluding Mit Feuer that brings a lovely rolling flow, soon rising in passion with some sparkling playing, terrific textures and timbres. These artists bring a superb use of rubato to propel this music forward with a terrific energy, finding some fine textures and sonorities before a brilliant, vibrant coda.

This is an absolutely terrific performance full of poetry, fire and passion.

The recording is excellent as are the booklet notes.

As a substantial bonus this new release comes with a DVD recording of an equally fine live performance of the concerto from the Berliner Philharmonie that receives a rapturous reception.

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