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Maurizio Pollini
SCHUMANN: ALLEGRO IN B MINOR; REISLERIANA; GESÄNGE DER FRÜHE
BY JEFFREY GANTZ

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Johannes Kreisler was the literary alter ego of the German Romantic E.T.A. Hoffmann, a composer and conductor who turns up in the novel The Life and Opinions of Tomcat Murr, Together with a Fragmentary Biography, on Some Random Sheets of Scrap Paper, of Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler as well as in the music-themed musings that appeared under the title Kreisleriana. Robert Schumann was a Hoffmann admirer, and this madcap suite of eight pieces, which he wrote in 1838, captures Kreislerís sarcastic/sentimental personality; the writing is grounded in Bach, but the tonality hovers between B-flat major and G minor, left- and right-hand parts seem to have different bar lines, and some pieces evaporate on half-cadences.

This new recording from Maurizio Pollini is as contained as (and at 29:08 a shade faster than) the 1982 live Salzburg performance that turned up briefly (and almost certainly without authorization) from Exclusive in 1994. Itís Pollini as Florestan, the impulsive half of Schumannís alter ego, but not the dreamy Eusebius. One could wish for playing more passionate and jagged: the second intermezzo of II is hyper-introverted, and the transition into the piú mosso 6/8 section of VI barely registers. Still, on repeated listenings Polliniís noble reserve and poetic subtlety grow in stature, and much of the stiffest competition ó Géza Anda (Testament or Orfeo), Claudio Arrau (Philips) Luise Vosgerchian (Titanic), Friederike Richter (Thorofon), Heidrun Holtmann (Ambitus), Joerg Demus (Nuova Era) ó is hard to find; try Wilhelm Kempff (in an indispensable DG box) or Martha Argerich (also DG).

The fillers are, well, filler. The early (1831) Opus 8 Allegro is the virtuoso first movement of a B-minor sonata that Schumann never finished; the late (1853) Hölderlin-inspired Gesänge der Frühe ("Songs of the Dawn") donít sustain the interest of the march-like opener. Constantin Florosís liner note tells us that the Allegro was written for Ernestine von Fricken, but in fact Schumann didnít meet Ernestine till 1834. Like Polliniís previous Schumann discs, this one, at 48:23, offers short measure for $18; coupling Kreisleriana with the Davidsbündlertänze that Deutsche Grammophon released last fall would have made for a more attractive proposition.

(Maurizio Pollini presents a program of Chopin and Debussy at a FleetBoston Celebrity Series recital this Sunday, April 28, at 3 p.m. at Symphony Hall. Call 888-266-1200.)

Issue Date: April 25 - May 2, 2002
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