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Schumann: Album für die Jugend - Ammara

Schumann: Album für die Jugend - Ammara

Arts Music  47756-8

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Schumann: Album für die Jugend (Album for the Youth)

Alessandra Ammara (piano)

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Review by John Miller - February 20, 2011

Robert Schumann would probably have laughed at the idea of anyone, let alone a concert pianist, playing the whole of his 'Album für die Jugend' at one sitting. These 43 miniatures were composed mainly to teach his three daughters not mere technique but the elements of musical expression at the piano. He declared that "these pieces came straight from my heart and were created from the deepest depths of my family life". In 1848 he transferred this musical gift from his domestic surroundings to the World, by publishing the group as a 'Christmas Album', Op. 68.

Obviously works of love in themselves, the miniatures reflect many of Schumann's concerns, interests and indeed his poetic soul. There are many folk-song influences and commentaries on rustic affairs, comments on the seasons, particularly Spring and Winter, as well as exercises in musical styles, such as chorale and fugue; references to literary subjects such as Mignon and Scherazade and homages to fellow composers ('Remembrance' in honour of Mendelssohn and a 'Nordic Song' whose theme is based on the notes GADE for the Danish composer Niels Gade. There are also life-lessons, in the pathos of 'First Loss' and the warmly passionate 'First Love'. Listeners might also spot a number of quotations, e.g. from Beethoven (Scherzo from Sonata op. 24 in the 'Soldier's March' and the trio from Fidelio in No. 21).

Alessandra Ammara has already demonstrated her talents as an excellent exponent of Schumann (Schumann: Carnaval, Davidsbündlertänze - Ammara) and without a doubt her performance of the 'Album for the Young' is to be numbered with the best available. She floats Schumann's simpler melodies with sweet innocence and no trace of archness or sentimentality, phrasing poetically and meticulously following Schumann's many tempo and dynamic instructions. She also follows all repeats and uses the composer's indications for pedalling, which he often used for particular effects. As well as limpid poetry, she also shows great strength and rhythmic control in the more energetic and strenuous pieces. Put simply, I would have cheerfully bought this disk for the exquisitely dreamy sweetness of 'Mignon' and the sinister darkness of the two 'Winter' pieces, amongst many other felicities in this set.

The Arts engineers have captured excellent and immediate sound from their Steinway D, imbued with the piano-friendly acoustic of the Sala Maffieana in Verona, for a truly "in the room" experience with multichannel mode. Stereo too has sonorous presence, if slightly less hall-sound.

Despite Schumann's original aims for the Album, I'm personally glad that an artist of the calibre of Alessandra Ammara plays the whole of it, for in her hands, it somehow seems to flow naturally together, as though she has discovered a hidden narrative. Completely absorbing, and highly recommended.

Copyright © 2011 John Miller and HRAudio.net

Performance:

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