Schumann Trilogy Surveys Concertos and Piano Trios

This is a perfect program that works on so many levels. This is more than a Schumann Trilogy. It’s actually several Schumann trilogies folded together. 

This three-disc set features the three concertos Schumann composed for violin, cello, and piano. It also features his three piano trios. The soloists comprise the piano trio. And they’re each a featured soloist in a Schumann concerto. 

What makes this project even more interesting is the choice of instruments. Isobelle Faust, Jean-Guihen Queyras, and Alexander Minikov wanted to get to the heart of Schumann’s music. So they elected to perform with instruments of the period. 

That meant gut-stringed violin and cello. Pianist Melnkiov used an 1847 Streicher fortepiano for the trios, and a 1837 Érard pianoforte for the concerto. And of course, the Freiburger Barokorchester also used instruments of the period. 

It makes for a subtle but important difference in sound. The Piano Concerto in A minor is a repertoire staple. There are plenty of thundering interpretations, with large orchestras and steel-string concert grands. Here the sound is softer and more refined. It’s still a showpiece, but somehow a more refined one. 

Joseph Joachim didn’t think much of the violin concerto Schumann wrote for him. He never performed it and forbade its publication for 100 years. Times have changed. Schumann’s use of traditional forms was fluid, but not flawed. The music works on its own terms. Isobelle Faust delivers a thrilling performance.

It’s when these three artists get together that things really take off, though. The three piano trios of Schumann are intimate works. The piano parts were all written with his wife Clara in mind. But the violin and cello are well-balanced with the piano. 

The trios have a sense of exuberance about them, especially in these performances. As I said — a perfect program. And in this case, played to perfection.   

The Schumann Trilogy
Violin Concerto WoO 1; Piano Concerto Op. 54; Cello Concerto Op. 129
Piano Trios Nos. 1-3
Isobelle Faust, violin; Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello; Alexander Mlnikov, piano
Freiburger Barokorchester; Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor
Harmonia Mundi HMX 2904095.98

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