Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Carnaval, Op. 9. Toccata, Op. 7. Arabesque, Op. 18. Bunte Blätter, Op. 99. Kreisleriana, Op. 16. Novelettes, Op. 21 - No. 1; No. 8. Papillons, Op. 2.
Youri Egorov (piano).
EMI Double Forte CZS5 74191-2 [two discs] [ADD] [147'23] Recorded 1978-85.

Youri Egorov won second prize in the 1974 Tchaikovsky Competition. His playing on these discs is a curious mix of exquisite touch and a tendency to the overly brutal. Egorov's use of the pedal is well considered throughout, so that textural clarity is beautifully controlled. Perhaps Schumann's unstable personality suited Egorov's playing particularly well, as the schizophrenic juxtapositions are often presented in the starkest of terms.

Carnaval is mostly successful. The twelfth movement, Chopin finds Egorov at his most inspirational, the right hand beautifully shaded, the left smooth: when he gets it right, he really does get it right. The fast movements are uniformly very fast (in the case of the ninth movement, Papillons, almost typewriter-ish), Paganini appropriately stormy. Only the last movement (Marche des 'Davidbündler' contre les Philistins) is overly relentless, which tarnishes the effect of the whole performance somewhat. This latter trait is continued in his disappointing performance of the Op. 7 Toccata.

The 1978 recording of Kreisleriana seems to float on the surface of Schumann's thought, and the listener never really gets dragged in. Instead, one admires Egorov's crystalline finger work and technique, but it is to the expense of the musical substance. The second movement, marked Intissimo e non troppo allegro emerges as merely ponderous, bereft of its magic. A strong vivace seventh movement feels as if everything has clicking into gear too late.

Bunte Blätter exhibits Egorov's trademarks well: the slow passages of the first section are well shaded, but the over-emphatic second section reminds one of the final movement of Carnaval in its unflinching insistence. Similarly, whilst there is contrast between the sections of the Novelette, Op. 21 No. 1, it is overdone by the brutality of the opening (which should instead be heavy and forceful).

This set provides a useful selection of major Schumann piano works at a similarly useful price. Egorov is capable of illumination and telling Romantic introspection at his very best, but capable of crass over-emphasis at his worst. He is always well served by EMI's recording. However, there are many alternatives for the two major works here, Carnaval and Kreisleriana. Argerich's Kreisleriana is characteristically high-powered and intense. Bolet provides one of the best modern Carnavals on Decca 417 401-2, and Uchida is her highly sensitive, always ultra-musical self on Philips 442 777-2.


Colin Clarke



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