Schumann for Piano & Orchestra

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Gerhard Oppitz, Marc Andreae, and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra offer the three principal piano and orchestra works by Robert Schumann as grouped in a concurrent release featuring Angela Hewitt, adding the piano transcription of the Op. 86 Konzertstücke for four solo horns. It’s good to hear the latter in such a spirited, joyful, and sonorous performance, although the original scoring packs an uplifting punch that even Oppitz’s big piano sound cannot quite match.

The A minor concerto begins promisingly with a forthright and animated Allegro affetuoso where even the rhetorically stretched lyrical concertante-like passages never sound static. By contrast, the piano/orchestra exchanges in the central Intermezzo are a bit impersonal and square. Oppitz’s opening chordal flourishes in the Allegro vivace contain an exposed wrong note, but his shapely fingerwork elsewhere clarifies the composer’s melodic cross-rhythms, notwithstanding a generalized orchestral image that would benefit from stronger woodwind projection for two-channel playback listeners (matters improve slightly via SACD surround-sound playback).

Compared to Hewitt’s meticulously detailed and thought-out traversal of the Introduction and Concert-Allegro’s piano part, Oppitz builds his sonority from the bottom up, uses more pedal, and generally comes off as a big picture guy. For all of Oppitz’s solid and secure keyboard mastery in the Op. 92 work, and with the Bamberg’s sonorous brass section to the fore, I still prefer the Richter/Rowicki (DG) and Serkin/Ormandy versions for their crisper tempos, clearer delineation of orchestral choirs, and more incisive, dynamic pianism. Collectors who want these four works together probably should overlook my nitpicking and focus on this disc’s virtues.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Op. 54: Moravec/Neumann (Supraphon); Op. 92: Richter/Rowicki (DG); Op. 134: Serkin/Ormandy (Sony)

  • SCHUMANN, ROBERT:
    Concerto for Piano & Orchestra in A minor Op. 54; Introduction and Allegro appassionato Op. 92; Introduction and Concert-Allegro Op. 134; Konzertstücke for Piano & Orchestra Op. 86

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