Giacometti plays Schumann

Paolo Giacometti
Schumann: Davidbündlertänze, Arabeske, Gesänge der Frühe
Channel Classics
CCS SA 28709

This is Giacometti’s second Schumann disc for Channel Classics. It is also the best, which is high praise indeed given the excellent qualities of the 2001 recording of the Phantasiestücke and Humoreske. Eight years later, and after four further instalments from his excellent Rossini complete piano works project, the Milan-born pianist has returned to Schumann with the same grace and understated confidence that marked the success of the first disc. Only this time there is more of each.

This is most evident in the relatively rarely performed Op. 133 set of Gesänge der Frühe, among the last works Schumann completed before entering the asylum at Endenich. In the wrong hands, these “contemplations on sunrise”, as the composer described them to his publisher, can sound uneventful and a little drab - “hard to understand”, as Clara Schumann put it. In Giacometti’s performance, however, they are luminous and strikingly peaceful, possessed of a clarity of expression and structure reminiscent more of Bach than anything else. In the chordal first piece, marked “Im ruhigen tempo”, Giacometti’s sensitivity to timing and voicing allow the snatches of melody to emerge like fragments of some half-remembered ancient verse, while in the more ornate fourth piece, marked simply “bewegt”, the right-hand cascades appear to build a more traditional dramatic arc, but then recede back to more enigmatic territory before entering the rarefied, almost sacred-seeming textures of the fifth piece. Giacometti handles each of the five movements in an exemplary fashion, never seeking to express more than is in the score but simply clearing the path for the snatches of expression which emerge all the more powerfully for their scarcity.

The same confident lightness of touch is brought to the opus 18 Arabesque as Giacometti threads his way into the work’s charming inner reaches. A more active interpretative input is demanded, however, by the picaresque charms of Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze. Nor are we disappointed, as Giacometti digs in to the fleeting dramas of each of the 18 character pieces. But the issue is never forced, the excitable “Sehr rasch” and the lullaby-like “Wie aus der Ferne”, with its fiery tail, providing good examples of a pianistic intelligence with great promise for the future and little to fear from the past. Giacometti is a true and rare talent.

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