The Schumann Collection, Vol. 2 - van Poucke
trptk TTK 0107 (2 discs)
Classical - Instrumental
Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133
Kreisleriana, Op. 16
Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6
Geistervariationen, WoO 24
Nicolas van Poucke (piano)
In 2020 I was approached by TRPTK to record an album. Due to the lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the world looked very different and live music performances had come to a halt. The idea of using the time in lockdown well, by recording an album while waiting to get back on stage as soon as the circumstances allowed, sounded great.
I chose to record three pieces of Robert Schumann which were already in my repertoire. At the end of the recording period the TRPTK team suggested we call the album “The Schumann Collection Volume l”, implying there would be more to come; I agreed happily.
In the process of preparing for the recording I fully immersed myself in Schumann’s musical universe and my obsession with this music took off. The agreement with TRPTK inspired me to continue my Schumann journey and resulted in this album containing pieces from both Schumann’s early and late period.
Support this site by purchasing from these vendors using the paid links below.
As an Amazon Associate HRAudio.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Review by Adrian Quanjer - September 30, 2023
Reviewing the previous release in Nicolas van Poucke’s Schumann survey: Schumann: Piano Works, Vol. 1 - van Poucke, I was surprised and impressed by this natural talent. Having eagerly awaited Vol. 2 I’m now pleased to confirm that he is all I said before.
Schumann’s piano music is popular among pianists and audiences alike. Putting one's stamp on any of the scores demands more than just playing all the notes as required by the composer. Easier said than done. What is meant by ‘Belebt, nicht zu rasch’ (animated, not too fast) in Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133? It leaves the door wide open for a personal interpretation.
Nicolas van Poucke distinguishes himself by taking his time and by observing numerous repeats Schumann added later to balance out the score. Measured against almost every other pianist in my comparison, van Poucke is slower, no matter whether a movement is marked ‘Langsam’, ‘Wild und Lustig, or ‘Aufgeregt’. However, and that is, to me, the sheer magic of his playing, he captivates the listener at all times, revealing emotional tension and lyrical prose that may have escaped other interpreters.
His careful and well-considered approach to Schumann’s five ‘Gesänge der Frühe’ is a clear and most imposing example of van Poucke’s understanding and empathy for a composer whose feelings in this late work hover between poetry and Introspection. It sets a tone that resonates in the rest of the programme, making this release, like the previous one, irreplaceably wonderful.
It is fascinating to discover how van Poucke identifies with Schumann’s feelings hidden in the Kreisleriana Op.16; describing a romantic soul borrowed from ETH Hoffmann’s Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler. It’s all about conflicting sentiments that can only be properly uncovered by someone who ‘understands’. Eschewing no single opportunity to draw the listener into a brilliantly shaded reading van Poucke makes this exciting tale come to life. A gift few pianists can hope to achieve.
The dualistic fictional story behind the Davidsbündlertänze is well-known (if not, it is described in detail in the excellent liner notes). With van Poucke we enter this world of phantasy, brimming with contrast and contradiction as though we are part of it. In his personal note, van Poucke lifts the veil of his ‘obsession’ (as he calls it) following his immersion “in Schumann’s musical universe”. What may at first glance look like a spiritual dose of entertainment is, in reality, a touching account of personal emotions. Not just offering suitable pianistics but having deep insight into Schumann’s emotional world of anguish and shyness is the right password here and that’s, as far as I’m concerned, exactly what Nicolas’ performance delivers.
It is said that genius and delusion are two sides of a great spirit. We may assume that Schumann, an intellectual fighting with a growing mental disorder, belonged to that category. It gave him a superior degree of resourcefulness and drama to compose his music, though increasingly with an undertone of restrained melancholy. His tenure as Music Director in Dusseldorf was not a success. However, his deteriorated mental state did not prevent his creative mind from composing 5 variations on a theme he had heard ghosts playing around him: The Geistervariationen Op. WoO 24. It was to be his final completed composition with which Nicolas van Poucke concludes this Second Volume of what is now called 'The Schumann Collection'. Masterly played by a talented pianist with a vision who has successfully “entered the Schumann world”.
(I understand there will be two more Volumes in this Schumann piano survey to look forward to).
Although I do not want to say that there are no other first-rate readings of Schumann's piano legacy, we must nonetheless admit that we have here a strong contender, recorded at the highest possible natural level. Brendon Heinst brings it to us in an 11.2MHz 1 bit in 5.1.4 channel immersive format. My listening is limited to 5.1 surround, which is already mighty good. Do not hesitate.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
Copyright © 2023 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net