Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Broadly speaking Schumann wrote two different kinds of piano work: large-scale abstract works in traditional forms such as sonata and variation; and works in a genre he created himself—the suite of small character pieces united by an emotional thread, often taking their inspiration from literature.
The three works on this disc fall into the latter category and the programme opens with Papillons, only his second published work and arguably his first masterpiece. Its inspiration seems to come from the description of a masked ball in the novel Flegeljahre by Jean Paul. Carnaval inhabits the same world as Papillons but on a larger scale (they even share the same tune in their finales); it is probably Schumann’s most popular piano work and has been recorded by all the great pianists from Rachmaninov onwards. Fantasiestücke takes its inspiration from E T A Hofmann and is perhaps a more inward-looking cycle.
All these works are cornerstones of the Romantic piano repertoire but Marc-André Hamelin need fear no comparison with his illustrious predecessors. There is a rare poetry and spontaneity in these performances, particularly that of Carnaval which Marc-André recorded as an afterthought in just a few takes when he finished a booked recording session early. Marc-André’s previous Schumann CD received excellent reviews—this one is even better!