Piano Concerto op. 54; Introduction and Allegro Appassionato op. 92; Concert Allegro op. 134
The sleeve note, with refreshingly uncommercial candour, suggests that Schumann was losing his grip by op.62 and had lost his mind by op. 134. It would be difficult to make any such deduction, justified or not, from Ashkenazy's account of these two works. In his hands the former is taut and springy, and the latter at least sounds sane. That's the recto or right side of this record; uninspired music in fine performance. But verso is vice versa with a vengeance, or so it seemed to me. In the first bars the solo entry leaps about excitedly in a tempo which the conductor then wearily restrains, like a dog-owner disinclined to go for a walk, which makes the eager lead-in sound rather silly. Thereafter the pianist, whether in discouragement or just self-defence, not only accepts the limp tempos proffered but lingers them out still further with many a languishingly soulful gesture of his own. The result, despite several sensitive touches such as the first movement's delicately dovetailed duetting between piano and oboe or clarinet, struck me as quite foreign to Schumann's expressive language, especially in a work surely designed as a model of classical economy as opposed to romantic extravagance.
The Musical Times, Feb., 1980 (p. 106) © the estate of eric sams