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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Robert Schumann, Piano Quintet, Op. 44, Piano Quartet, Op. 47, Alexander Melnikov and the Jerusalem Quartet

Robert Schumann was a gifted composer who did his best music at intermittent periods of his career. His was not the grand Beethovenian progression from height to height. One of his most fertile periods was 1842-3, when he composed some of his very best chamber music, notably the Piano Quintet, Op. 44 and the Piano Quartet, Op. 47. A new recording of these works by Alexander Melnikov and the Jerusalem Quartet has just emerged (Harmonia Mundi 902122) I have been communing with my muse lately by giving the disk a spin.

These are exceptionally imaginative works, filled with brilliant invention, melodious themes, rhythmic vigor and a lack of romantic self-indulgence. They are played with lots of style and dynamic thrust by Melnikov and the Jerusalem Quartet.

In addition to the symphonies, the best of the solo piano works, the Piano Concerto and the best of his lieder, this is indispensable Schumann. With the performances at hand, one cannot go wrong. There may be more Dionysian versions from the days of the 78 and LP. This more present-day Apollonian version brings out the thematic brilliance without wearing its emotions on its proverbial sleeve. It isn't without warmth. It does not gush either. You hear the music clearly without undue amounts of supercharged phlegm and neo-Victorian vapors. So it is certainly a version to have.

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