Schumann on Hyperion

2008-01-01 / Piano Magazine / Alan Blakelock

Schumann: Sonata No 1, Op 11; Humoreske, Op 20
Angela Hewitt
Hyperion CDA67618

This is very superior playing indeed: an object lesson in pianistic refinement, tonal, expressive and psychological imagination, and musicianship of the highest order. Hewitt’s tonal palette is vast, exceptionally controlled and never indulged for its own sake. As in Bach, she uses it not only for colouristic but for textural, polyphonic and structural purposes. Her rhythmic vocabulary, too, is of immense sophistication, most strikingly, perhaps, in her use, and great variety, of agogics (the still-under-exploited secret of playing rubato in strict time). Rather than getting hung-up, like so many pianists, on the almost clichéd Florestan-Eusebius dichotomy, she does much to illuminate the complexity of Schumann’s psychological-emotional make-up through her remarkably multi-layered command of contrasting textures. She has an uncanny grasp of what might be called rhythmical as opposed to merely melodic polyphony. Florestan and Eusebius do not merely alternate, they coexist. The tenderness and luminosity of tone in the slow movement of the sonata are quite haunting in their immediacy – indeed that sense of immediacy is amongst the hallmarks of the whole recording, be it haunting, jubilant, playful, morbid, dramatic or any of the other emotions and spiritual atmospheres that Schumann traverses almost as a matter of course.