Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 8
With the fifth volume in Naxos’ ongoing cycle of Robert Schumann chamber and orchestral works arranged for piano duet, the Eckerle Piano Duo has now traversed all four symphonies in arrangements either penned or sanctioned by the composer. Schumann himself took on “de-orchestrating” the revised version of his Fourth, while his pianist wife Clara joined forces putting the First in duet order. Many four-hand editions of orchestral works tend to be more utilitarian in nature than artistically satisfying. However Schumann’s busy string writing and lush woodwind doublings often mirror similar textures in his piano scores, and sound perfectly plausible on the keyboard, especially in the Eckerle Duo’s sensitive and experienced hands.
One distinguishing feature of the performances concerns the duo’s well-considered tempos. In the “Spring” symphony first movement, for example, the duo takes Schumann’s maestoso introduction faster and the Allegro molto vivace main section slower than what you’d expect from a regulation orchestral reading, yet the results make perfect pianistic sense. The same holds true for the Fourth symphony finale’s similar slow/fast game plan. By not rushing through the “Spring” fourth movement, the duo not only conveys the composer’s grazioso directive, but also allows the staccato phrases to truly sing out, comfortably placing the syncopations without pressing ahead. They liberate the Fourth symphony Scherzo from the lumbering gait of certain recent orchestral renditions), feeling the music in one beat to the bar and balancing the canonic writing playfully.
Naturally these arrangements are no substitute for the originals, but they lose surprisingly little in translation when applied to 88 keys and 20 fingers. Excellent annotations and production values, save for an occasionally out-of-tune note in the treble register.
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Recording Details:Album Title: Arrangements for Piano Duet, Vol. 5
Reference Recording: None for these arrangements, Schumann Symphonies 1 & 4: Szell/Cleveland Orchestra (Sony); Sawallisch/Dresden Staatskapelle (Sony); Dohnányi/Cleveland Orchestra (Decca)
- SCHUMANN, ROBERT:Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major Op. 38 (“Spring”) arranged for piano duet by Robert & Clara Schumann; Symphony No. 4 in D minor Op. 120 arranged for piano duet by Robert Schumann