2010-10-15 / Gramophone / Bryce Morrison
Sensational Schumann from Hewitt, ever live to his troubled and ecstatic poetry
The current flood of Chopin recordings is in danger of making us forget that this is also Schumann’s year. And here from Angela Hewitt comes a disc to make us marvel anew at Schumann’s Romanticism; at his troubled and ecstatic poetry. Everything is played as if in the heat of first inspiration, a reflection, perhaps, of a recreative richness mirroring Hewitt’s encompassing and versatile repertoire. Few pianists are so brilliantly alive to every passing fancy and whimsicality. And again, few performances could be less studio-bound, more fleet, hallucinatory and above all more deeply imaginative.
Hewitt’s Davidsbundlertanze is a wonder of kaleidoscopically shifting moods with a near-painful immediacy, never more so than in the dreams of No 14 or in the retrospective coda and valedictory waltz. Everything seems lit from within and so, too, is the Kinderszenen. In “Traumerei” Hewitt returns us to a first pristine beauty, long before it succumbed to distorting idiosyncrasy and sentimentality, and the gently troubled world of “Child Falling Asleep” could hardly be more haunting. In the Second Sonata Hewitt’s superb technique allows her a freedom and caprice known to very few of today’s pianists. How she relishes Schumann’s madcap demand to play “as fast as possible – faster – still faster” in the first-movement coda. How delicately she captures all of the Andantino’s wistful, romantic ambiguity. Her finale, too, is as ardent and dazzling as you could wish though I hope Hewitt will give us in time the alternative Presto passionate finale; music, despite Schumann’s preference, of still greater scope and wildness.
Hyperion’s sound is immaculate and Hewitt’s accompanying essay is as alive with insights as her playing, including a telling comment on music being the “wonderful wordless and thus more powerful communicator”. Praise could go no further. This is revelatory Schumann-playing—something to cherish.