Robert Schumann (08.06.1810 – 29.07.1856) is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann was the quintessential artist whose life and work embodies the notion of Romanticism in music. Schumann was not particularly comfortable with large forms but nonetheless composed four enjoyable symphonies, a cello concerto and a wonderful piano concerto. It was through his songs and short pieces for the piano that he was truly able to express the full range of his lyrical genius. His song cycle Dichterliebe, Op. 48 and his piano pieces Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Kinderszenen, Op. 15 and Waldszenen, Op. 82 are brilliant examples of this.
The Fantasie in C major, Op. 17, was written by Robert Schumann in 1836. It was originally intended to be published as a “Sonata for Beethoven” entitled “Ruins, Trophies, Palms. Grand Sonata.” Although he eventually abandoned this plan, he maintained the Fantasy’s mighty design. Writing to his fiancée Clara Wieck in March 1838, he called the first movement “perhaps the most impassioned music I have ever written.” It was revised prior to publication in 1839, when it was dedicated to Franz Liszt and is generally described as one of Schumann’s greatest works for solo piano, and is one of the central works of the early Romantic period. This highly romantic work has an exemplary combination of passion, delicacy, and virtuosity and thus provides great scope for pianists to interpret the work.
There are a number of versions of this great work that are rated highly by the iClassical team including Maurizio Pollini’s account on Deutsche Grammophon and Marc-Andre Hamelin’s performance on Hyperion. But on balance we would choose Paul Lewis’ dramatic and sensitive account if we could only take one of these performances to our desert island. This CD also has the bonus of a particularly fine account of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, in its piano version, as a coupling.