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Music column

Schumann Forum 2010

Schumann: The Piano Concerto (Continued from 1. February, 2010)

by Wolf-Dieter Seiffert

15. February

Dear Visitors of the Schumann Forum 2010, I assume that you will have a personal favourite recording of Schumann’s piano concerto op. 54. I would be happy to find out what YOUR FAVOURITE is and why you prefer it over others. Write me a short e-mail!

The senders of the three first letters to reach me via
 will receive our brand-new Urtext edition of the concerto, signed by Mitsuko Uchida (fingerings), Peter Jost (editor) and Johannes Umbreit (piano reduction). With your consent I will publish your letter in the Schumann Forum 2010 newsletter on March 15.

Jpc, one of the major German online shops for CDs, lists over 200 (!)
» recordings of Robert Schumann’s piano concerto on CD
therefore, this piece might certainly be among the eternal top-10 of classical music.

Murray Perahias : this recording must be at least 20 years old, a wonderfully colourful and nuanced live recording with Colin Davis conducting the fantastical play of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk: Sony 518810-2 (I must add that Perahia’s more recent recording with Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker is also grand).

Christian Zacharias and the masterfully lucid sound of chamber music performed by the Kammerorchester Lausanne, and conducted by himself: MDG 340 1033-2.

And last but not least, Lars Vogt, perfectly meeting Schumann’s tone with his exquisitely harmonious play together with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, splendidly led by Simon Rattle: EMI 7-54746-2.

You will most likely not yet have heard the following live recording from the Konzerthaus Freiburg in May 2007. It was never published commercially, but is (still) posted as a podcast in full length by the SWR (public German radio broadcaster). In my opinion it documents a half hour of brilliant orchestral chamber music, absolutely worth listening to:

» András Schiff, Heinz Holliger  (conductor) and the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg 

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Now, however, we want to continue with our introduction of the new Urtext edition of Schumann’s piano concerto:

We are convinced that not only are the fingerings of the solo voice, supplied by no one lesser than Mitsuko Uchida, an exquisite specialty; rather the very well playable and wonderfully sounding piano reduction of the orchestra part is an invaluable asset, as well. Johannes Umbreit, lecturer at the Musikhochschule Munich, is the author.

It is no small coincidence that Johannes Umbreit‘s name appears in so many Henle editions. When piano reductions of major concerts are needed, we rely on him. We regard Johannes Umbreit as a master of his class. And so far our customers have always reacted with highest praise to his piano reductions, from Bach to Bruch, from Stamitz to Chausson.

My colleague, Dr. Annette Oppermann, who is responsible for the publication of the Urtext edition of the piano concerto at Henle, spoke to Johannes Umbreit about the special challenges of this particular piano reduction, and the advantages that the Henle edition has over others. Here you can listen to the slightly abbreviated (German language) interview:

Certainly Ivor Bolton is one of the conductors who has very frequently performed the piano concerto with famous pianists. Currently he is head conductor of the Mozarteum-Orchester Salzburg. I had the very special pleasure of speaking with him during the „Mozart-Week“ in January 2010 in Salzburg, and was able to question him on aspects of Schumann’s piano concerto from the conductor’s view.

Ivor Bolton is not only a magnificent musician; he is equally magnificent to converse with. I learned so much from him, not only regarding Opus 54. Here you have the opportunity to listen to the (much shortened) recording of our conversation (in English):


Finally, I would like to draw your attention to a very rewarding Schumann radio show, produced by the German radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR-Klassik) in collaboration with SWR 2; this series of 30 individual radio shows reveals Robert Schumann as a man of letters rather than a composer of music, and is absolutely worth listening in to (provided you understand German):
» "Robert Schumann, Kritiker und Prophet". The original Schumann texts are read by the well known German stage and film actor Matthias Brandt

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