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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Humoreske in B flat Major Op. 20 (1838) [27:40]
Davidsbündlertänze Op. 6 (1837) [38:12]
Geister-Variationen (Ghost Variations) [11:29]
Gabriele Carcano (piano)
rec. 2018, Baroque Hall, SMC Studios, Ivrea, Italy

I have many recordings of the piano music of Robert Schumann, including two complete cycles as well as a fair number of individual discs and part sets, and this new disc by Gabriele Carcano has a lot of competition, not only in my collection, but also in the catalogues. On first acquaintance, these sounds like fair representations of the three works here, but after more detailed listening and a comparison with my favourite recordings, I am afraid it fails to hit the spot.

On comparison with Radu Lupu’s excellent recording of the Humoreske (Decca 440 496-2), Gabriele Carcano’s performance pales in comparison. There are too many anomalies in tempo for me: the opening sounds too slow, which is unusual as there is not that much difference between the timings of the two recordings, but it just sounds ponderous in Carcano’s hands. He is more convincing in the second section, but this does not last, as he soon reverts to tempo fluctuations in tempo, which, after listening to Lupu and others, I find does not work for me. So not a good start.

Things are not much better in one of my favourites in all Schumann’s piano oeuvre, the masterly Davidsbündlertänze. On first listening, there was a sense of Carcano almost clipping notes, for which I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but no, again on a detailed relistening that sounds contrived, as if the pianist were performing the work in the style of earlier keyboard works. Carcano also makes too much of the differing characters within the work, hence the sonic range between the softer and louder sections of the work is too great. Imogen Cooper in her recent recording for Chandos (CHAN 10874), really gets to the heart of the work and brings out every nuance effortlessly, switching with apparent ease from the more exuberant music of Florestan to the dreamier pieces by Eusebius - something we don’t hear from Gabriele Carcano.

The work which fares best in Carcano’s hands is the late Geister-Variationen, but even here at times he gets lost in the detail, again lacking the passion of Imogen Cooper, who is able to make much more out of these variations.

I therefore find it hard to recommend this recording, as at times it is too idiosyncratic, then at others he fails altogether to get to the heart of this overtly Romantic music. The recording benefits form good booklet notes from Gabriele Carcano and decent recorded sound, but this cannot save a lacklustre performance.

Stuart Sillitoe


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