Works for Solo Piano Box set, CD, Import
For less than $60, this seven-CD set brings the buyer almost all of Schumann's important works for solo piano performed by one of the great pianists of the last 50 years. Ashkenazy is nearly as insightful an interpreter of Schumann as he is of Chopin and the quality of these performances, which were recorded between 1984 and 1995, is generally high. The gnarled F-sharp Minor Sonata is beautifully organized, as well as emotionally compelling; "Papillons" has style, color, and flexibility; "Waldszenen" displays poetry, strength, and simplicity; the G-Minor Sonata is clearly outlined and impeccably delivered; "Kinderszenen" is played with fluidity and nuance; and "Carnaval" is delivered with bigness of conception, virility, and authority that make it among the finest ever recorded. Even on those occasions when Ashkenazy fails to reach such heights--as he does, for example, in a "Davidsbundlertanze" that is a mite too solemn and deliberate for the music's helter-skelter whimsy--his performances still achieve a distinguished standard. Nevertheless, it is Ashkenazy's misfortune that he must compete against his younger self. The readings in this set of the Symphonic Etudes, the Fantasy in C Major, "Kreisleriana," and the "Humoresque" fall short compared to those Ashkenazy recorded in the 1960s and early 1970s. In those earlier performance--reissued on a Double Decca set--the notes roll off the pianist's fingers in a dazzling and melting manner, with a singing tone and a sense of rapture, that he was unable to match 20 years later. --Stephen Wigler
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I may not have heard every version of these Schumann pieces played by every pianist in the 20th century, but I can say that Ashkenazy plays these pieces absolutely wonderfully- with both technical virtuosity and emotional depth. If you really want to cobble together a collection of the "absolute best" Schumann pieces, and spend a couple hundred dollars in the process, that's certainly your prerogative.
I just can't see how anyone can fault Ashkenazy's playing of these pieces as being lesser than others. To my ears, he plays them faultlessly. There are times during the recording where I want to stand up and applaud, others when I want to weep.
For about $5-$8 per disc (depending on who you purchase it from) you can have this wonderful music. Buy it now, and listen often!
But like Richter, Ashkenazy played the German repertoire with distinguished authority, sealed with elegant phrasing and devoted lyrics. Stylistically speaking, the Russian pianism is ravishing, dazzling and pregnant of febrile nostalgia and profound attachment for the homeland. These are the main differences respect the late European Romanticism, nourished by a widest rank of emotions, livings and memories borrowed from the literature, painting and poetry.
That fact features a way of performing and conceiving the romantic ideal of the Russian citizen. Therefore, we should not surprise ourselves about sonorities, fingering and phrasing that would seem to obey to unspoken echoes of "a psychology of sound". The fiery staccatos and the leonine attacks on the keyboard is what it relates to composers who are not akin at all, like Rubinstein or Busoni, for instance.
The sixties was the golden decade of this prestigious pianist, who took advantage of the showy and electrifying pianism of his musical colleagues Richter and Gilels. Ashkenazy if I may embodied the best of both artists. On one hand the unpredictable temperament of Richter and the gelid precision of Gilels. That accurate blend of serenity and impetuosity gained many admirers in the Western world, specially for those great audiences avid for experiencing new interpretative proposals.
It's not a mere casualty that Ashkenazy and Richter were during the sixties, the most stubborn pianists who dared themselves to play these two minor works of Schumann with successful expectations. They covered both works of radiant splendor and exquisite charm these neglected and overlooked pieces for the most of the great soloists by then.
Nevertheless, the recording of these piano works let me absolutely indifferent. The main problem which any pianist has to deal, resides in the fact two giants of the past -like Wilhelm Kempff and Yves Nat- recorded the whole set which is by itself, challeging and daring. Ashkenazy makes the best he can but he doesn't hover the performances of dreamlike rapture,enchanted poetry and inspired lyricism demanded for the author beneath the score.
That's why I can't give this set a major score.
But what every piece does give you, what ash himself seems to offer now, is a high standard of playing, though little over the top. But dont take that the wrong way, this set is a perfect way for anyone, even those pianophiles, to imburse or reimburse themselves in Schumann's wonderful world.
1.Wald-ash,haskil, richter, kempff
2.Kinder-moise, cortot, horsz, kempff
3.Davids-Giese, Perahia, Pollini
5.Sonata 1-Gilels, Ash, Sofronitzky
6. Symph Etudes- Richter, Richter, Richter, anda, moravec
7. Fant in C-Moise, Backhaus, Cohen, Richter, sofron
8. Humoreske-Richter-56 moscow, kempf, schiff
I much prefer the more introspective approach of Arrau, or the wild and intriguing Pollini. Even Barenboim comes closer to the heart of Schumann than Ashkenazy.
The recorded sound is often disappointing also. The sound on some pieces is so muddy I thought the microphone was behind a wall.