Davidsbündlertänze op. 6; Fantasiestücke op. 12 (Perahia)
That eminent critic Hamlet remained unimpressed by the bravura techniques of certain mature “players I have seen play and heard others praise, and that highly”. But he was very impressed by the unforced intuitive gifts of younger artists. Here's another who carries it away, and his audience too. On the evidence of opp. 6 and 12 here recorded, Murray Perahia is a world-class Schumann pianist at the ripe young age of 26. Schumann was about that age when he wrote them, which may afford certain affinities of approach. His own ideal was to combine case and fluency with energy and force. Many pianists can encompass one or other of those extremes; but they are rarely realized so revealingly in the round as by this interpretation. Personally I find it in a higher flight than Arrau's, with more directness and penetration; and sweeter than Rosen's, who will have to look to his laurels.
The basic inspiration was to link op.6 with its double, op.12. Both works were in fact contemporary, and later than opp.7-11. Similarly op.24 and op.48 were both written in 1840, i.e. earlier than most of opp.25-47. The two 1840 works were both Heine song cycles. All four were inspired by Clara Wieck; all four are thematically interlinked. In constructing the progression 6, 12, 24, 48 the highly numerate Schumann was presumably rendering some personal account of his own. The two piano cycles are very like song cycles in the unity and expressiveness of their narrative style. They have words too, whether above or between the lines. Such directions as “singend” speak for themselves; such titles as “Fabel” tell their own story; “Ende vom Lied” does both.
For those reasons I wish that the first edition of op.6 had been used; the second is characterless in comparison. Perhaps too some of the detailed readings are not quite clearly enough enunciated for example the final accents of op.6 nos.1 and 12. And in op.12 “Warum” is almost bound to leave a lingering question-mark in the mind; its idea always seems more profound in conception than in realization. But Murray Perahia's great triumph throughout lies in conveying the sense of total absorbed participation in the changing moods of the music.
We are given to understand how the thematic strands are interwoven with increasing vitality and vigour as the plot thickens (e.g. in “Fabel” and “In der Nacht”), with a corresponding unravelling of texture at the dénouement. In the more lyrical pieces the melodic lines and their grace notes have all the sinuous inflections of a singing voice. Similarly in the Davidsbündlertänze the left hand is not afraid to sound gauche in beating out the rhythm of the dances.
In these and other ways the music is rightly presented as a continuous and vivid Singspiel of story, song and dance. No one, Schumannian or not, should miss this glittering programme of agile and tender harlequinades. Murray Perahia is a born master of such ceremonies.
The Musical Times, Jul., 1974 (p. 575) © the estate of eric sams