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CLASSICAL  December 2005

CLASSICAL December 2005

Subject:

Catherine Collard Plays Schumann Piano Music

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 13 Dec 2005 22:23:18 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Robert Schumann (1810-56)
Piano Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 11 (1833-35) [32:11] *
Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (1833-38) [17:42]
Papillons, Op. 2 (1828-31) [13:46]
3 Romances, Op. 28 (1839) [13:54]
Catherine Collard, piano
Recorded Salon Honnorat, Cite Universitaire, Paris, March 1978
Recording Location/Dates Not Identified *
WARNER APEX 2564 61797-2 [78:04]

Comparisons:
Sonata No. 1 - Gilels/Classica D'Oro, Glemser/Naxos, Pollini/DG,
Wirssaladze/Live Classics
Sonata No. 2 - Berezovsky/Teldec, Blanchard/Vanguard, Kempff/DG,
Wirssaladze/Live Classics
Papillons - Freire/Decca, Richter/EMI
3 Romances - Kempff/DG, Nat/EMI

Born in 1947, Catherine Collard was a splendid French pianist who died
from cancer in 1993.  I first became familiar with her artistry through
her Haydn Piano Sonata recordings for the Lyrinx label, and upon further
investigation found her recordings of Debussy, Faure, D'Indy and Satie
also highly rewarding.  Warner recently reissued this Schumann disc that
further confirms that Collard's early demise was a sad day for keyboard
enthusiasts.

Collard's best performances on the disc are of the 3 Romances.  These
pieces are not among Schumann's most popular piano works, but each of
the three is compelling music fully possessing the gorgeous musical
lines, impetuosity, and contrasting of action/enlightenment that Schumann
is so well known for.  The 1st Romance, "Sehr markiert", is full of
tension and restlessness, and Collard gives the most urgent performance
on record with triplet cascades in constant distress.  "Einfach", the
2nd Romance, is a beautiful piece where Schumann comforts us with his
hymn-like phrasing and pacing; Collard excellently captures the security
of the music, although she can't match Wilhelm Kempff's mesmerizing
account.  The 3rd Romance is a rather extended contrapuntal affair with
two Intermezzos and a wealth of varied themes and emotional content.  As
in the 1st Romance, Collard is superb as she highlights Schumann's vigor
and playfulness in the primary theme, the enchanting nature of the
Intermezzo I and the frenetic energy of Intermezzo II.  Overall, I find
Collard's readings of the Romances the most rewarding available on the
market.  Although the recorded competition is not huge for these pieces,
the exceptional versions by Kempff and Nat are hard to beat, and Collard
does just that with a superior achievement.

Schumann's Papillons, like his more extended Carnaval, revolves around
a masked ball where layers of emotions are impetuously uncovered and
displayed.  Collard gives another winning performance.  She does not
match the magnificent Richter interpretation or the spontaneity of the
Freire, but her well characterized reading is among the better versions
in the catalogues.

Schumann began work on his Sonata No.  2 in the same year as No.  1, but
his second effort displays a greater command of sonata form and he was
able to fully convey his musical fantasy within the sonata's architectural
boundaries.  Schumann's two alter-egos, Florestan (man of action) and
Eusebius (enlightenment) are constant fixtures in the four-movement work.
Eusebius is the central personality in the lovely and reflective 2nd
Movement Andantino, but Florestan grabs the other movements by the throat.
The 1st Movement is especially angry and angst-ridden, the very short
3rd Movement Scherzo amazingly contains two Trios, and the 4th Movement
Rondo requires great virtuosity with its speeding figures.

An excellent performance of Sonata No.  2 must convey Florestan's
tremendous strength and immediate response to stimuli as well as the
measured guidance handed down by Eusebius.  Collard does all this with
a tempetuous and muscular Florestan countered by an insightful and
spiritual Eusebius.  I particularly love her 1st Movement where Florestan
is in charge of a world out of control; Collard's ferocious and
helter-skelter display is just the ticket for this music.  Her version
of the Sonata easily stands tall next to the exceptional comparison
recordings.

I am not as enthusiastic concerning Collard's performance of the Sonata
No.  1 in F sharp minor, and my reservations apply to the 1st Movement
with its Introduction of brutal intensity and the first theme's wildly
sinister dance rhythms.  Each of the comparison versions fully conveys
these features, especially the scorching Gilels and Wirssaladze
interpretations.  Unfortunately, there is nothing scorching about Collard's
performance.  Her introduction is relatively benign, and the necessary
tension that builds in the beginning of the Allegro vivace is absent.

Don's Conclusions: This reissued Collard disc has much to offer with the
exception of the 1st Movement of Sonata No.  1.  Given the super-budget
price tag and clear sonics, I heartily recommend the recording.  If the
3 Romances are your main priority, Collard becomes essential listening.
Although the disc has not been distributed in the U.S. market, it is
readily available from various European sources including Amazon UK.

Don Satz
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