Demus’ 1984 Schumann Fortepiano CD Resurfaces: Do We Care?

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 7

MDG has reissued these 1984 Schumann recordings by Jörg Demus with an updated booklet note taking into account the pianist’s death in April, 2019. Demus recorded lots of Schumann over his long career, including a complete cycle of the piano music in the 1970s and numerous single releases, some involving period instruments, such as the present disc. MDG’s distantly resonant engineering somewhat mitigates the bright and twangy sonority of Demus’ vintage 1835 Conrad Graf fortepiano, yet it also enhances the instrument’s dynamic projection.

Demus generally is at his best in introspective, lyrical moments, such as Humoreske’s opening section and the first, third, and sixth Fantasiestücke selections. Elsewhere in this opus he seems to push his fingers to their limits, with noticeable blurring and rhythmic unsteadiness in Traumes-Wirren, Aufschwung, and In der Nacht. But when Demus rises to the occasion, he’s as compelling and captivating a Schumann player as they come; try his gruff demeanor and forceful command in Grillen, or the Humoreske’s majestically sweeping coda.

However, for Demus the fortepianist on tip-top form with Schumann, you have to do some second-hand dealer digging to find two Harmonia Mundi releases: an excellent 1964 Fantasy Op. 17 and Symphonic Etudes Op. 13 coupling, or the charming 1980 Album for the Young Op. 68. And for Demus’ Schumann on the concert grand, the Kreisleriana from the aforementioned complete cycle is a keeper. So are his early 1950s Westminster LP versions of the Fantasiestücke and Humoreske, but that’s my arcane collector evil twin talking! Let’s sum up this disc: Fascinating? Yes. Memorable? Sometimes. But do we care? Well…not really.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Fantasiestücke Op. 12: Perahia (Sony), Humoreske Op. 20: Lupu (Decca)

  • Jörg Demus (fortepiano)
  • MDG - 604 0150 2
  • CD

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