Review: Variations on Schumann

Variations on Schumann – Works by Novák,
Brahms and Schumann.
Patrick Hemmerlé (pf)
Orpheus OR 3012-9720 73min

French pianist Patrick Hemmerlé offers three sets of variations on or by Schumann.
Viteslav Novák’s variations (on Schumann’s Op 68/34, from Album für die Jugend) are ghorgeous: although he was still as student at the Prague Conservatoire when he composed it. Novák’s work exudes life and is beautifully constructed. Hemmerlé’s performance is wondrous, his piano well prepared and recorded. The finale is gloriously exploratory, radiant in its use of upper registers: this is a stunning piece well played.
The Brahms is based on the fourth of the Bunte Blätter Op 99 – also used by Clara Schumann for her Op 20. Written in the shadow of Schumann’s attempted suicide, Brahms’ Op 9 is prfound and concentrated. Hemmerlé sustains the legato and sparse textures superbly. The Symphonic Etudes (1834 version, with two posthumous variations) exudes a superb sense of power. A phenomenally interesting disc, performed with real musical maturity.