Schumann Carnaval, Papillons, Fantasiestücke
Marc-André Hamelin is well known for his super-human virtuosity and ease in meeting the challenges of composers like Alkan and Medtner. It enables him to bring a fresh intelligence and sympathy to the early scores of Schumann, untroubled by any pianistic awkwardnesses. They were first heard through the expert fingers of the composer's future wife Clara Wieck.
The Fantasiestücke are divided into two books, the eight pieces structured with repeats, and mostly longer than the fleeting character sketches of the other cycles here. Schumann recommended only a few for public performance, and I would recommend separating the groups for listening to the CD.
I was not sure immediately that Papillons was not a shade too analytic, but was completely captivated by Carnaval, Hamelin's account of which must join the most illustrious of that favourite in so many pianists' repertoires and audiences' affections.
With fine recording (1999/2002) and a comprehensive and a fascinating seven page introduction by Misha Donat, this CD must earn a proud place in the Schumann discography and you can be recommended to acquire it even if you already own a favourite version of Carnaval.