“Putting onto disc Schumann’s essentially elusive music is somewhat risky,” writes Jean-Efflam Bavouzet in the notes for his latest release. The French pianist, known for his astute programming and enviable technique, confesses to a “thirst” for Schumann’s music but adds that its inspiration is so spontaneous that it becomes “changeable”. For this listener he certainly captures the composer’s spirit in his performances of the four works on this admirable disc.

It opens with Grande Sonate No 3 – composed in 1834-35 and revised almost 20 years later – with its charming set of variations on an andantino written by his beloved Clara Wieck as a teenager. The Frenchman first came across the work on a Horowitz recording and it is that maestro’s judicious ‘hybridised’ version, mixing the 1834 with the 1853 revision, that we hear on JEB’s Yamaha grand. Listen out for the wild Prestissimo possible finale with its notoriously challenging semiquavers. Staying with Schumann’s early works JEB gives a superb cinematic reading of Faschingsschwank Aus Wien – each festive scene coming alive under his hands – before moving to the middle period with the Drei Fantasiestücke.

The album brings us to the end of Schumann’s life with the five springtime songs Gesänge der Frühe. Production is all you would expect from Chandos and JEB gives some great insights into the difficulties the performer faces.

Composer: Schumann
Composition: Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Grande Sonate et al
Performer: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet p
Catalogue Number: Chandos CHAN20081

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