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Schumann by Nissman

Kreisleriana, Op. 16
Phantasie, Op. 17
Toccata, Arabeske, Träumerei

Barbara Nissman (piano)

Pierian 0025
[Duquesne University, Pittsburgh 2004, TT:76 mins]

Barbara Nissman has an idiosyncatic way to the essence of each of the composers explored in her ongoing series for Pierian. Her programme notes are succinct and perceptive, taking us into Schumann's mind set during his twenties in the 1830s, the decade which produced all these masterpieces, intimate diaries in which he confided his secret thoughts and fears, and his passion for Clara. Nissman traverses his constantly shifting and extreme emotions, best exemplified in Kreisleriana - future mental illness not far away. She relishes the composer's 'twisting voices' and impulsivity, with rhythmic surprises and abrupt modulations.

I am not given to star ratings or comparative reviews; these works are all well represented in the catalogues by famous pianists. Nissman mentions the difficulty of this music that does not fit comfortably under the hand, and she does not flaunt her virtuosity. She cites the dangerous difficulties of the Toccata (practising it could have contribute to Schumann's right hand becoming crippled permanently, Nissman suggests) and I was glad that she brings out the music in this piece.

There is a feeling of musical oddness throughout, and sampling gave way to my playing the generous programme straight through. It is all engrossing and, to my ears, moving - the Phantasie especially. I don't need other interpretations of Schumann, my favourite pianist composer. You may find that the sound from Duquesne University is very resonant and is helped by a little adjustment of treble/bass controls, depending on your equipment.

See also Barbara Nissman on Pierian Records in which her recordings are listed and my musical association with her is recorded.

Peter Grahame Woolf

© Peter Grahame Woolf