R. Schumann 2 CDs Album, Romeo.
International Record Review,Britain.
February 2011 Edition
The Israeli pianist Daniel Gortler has been performing to steady international acclaim since winning third prize in the Geneva Competition in 1984. His recordings include the complete Mendelssohn Songs Without Words as well as a collection of Schubert songs with soprano Sharon-Rostorf Zamir (both for Romeo Records). In the present two-disc Schumann set, which is my introduction to his playing, he reveals a high level of technical refinement and-more importantly- a distinctive musical personality. In this over-familiar repertoire, which sometimes invites interpretative extremes, he wins by playing simply and directly. This is not to say that he plays without color and imagination, for these are in abundance, but rather to say that at no moment does he let his pianism draw our attention away from the music. He seems to deliver the letter as well as the spirit of these scores in a way that is rare among younger pianists. It is especially refreshing to hear such musicality applied to Op. 13, a work that is often played mainly as a technical tour de force but that is here treated as a set of subtle character variations. The scherzando qualities of Variations 3 and 4 are perfectly realized, the lovely five posthumous variations are inserted as welcome moments of repose, and the finale is for once not hammered home as merely loud and fast. At every dynamic level he finds multiple sub-levels of shading, and these we hear applied as naturally as a good conversationalist would do.
This aspect makes his interpretation of Op. 17 one of the best I know, in a class with the famous old one by Curzon and the more recent fine ones by Fiorentino and Uchida. What they all have in common is the “big picture” , with playing that carries the listener from one phrase to the next, with never a sense of point -making, calculation or self-indulgence. Time is taken where Schumann asks for it, but the music never comes to a stop, even during fermatas. His judicious pedaling makes the fast outer movements of Op. 26 and the second movement of Op. 17 (and its coda) sound big without being merely loud, clear without being dry. Not even in the least inspired sections of Op.26 does the playing sound routine, and re-statements of themes are subtly given new life. Best of all are the slow sections of each work, where a natural sense of musical flow is married to the most refined kind of listening, with each note perfectly matched to the diminuendo of each preceding note. This applies also to Opp. 18 and 19, where their many ritardandos and fermatas are heard without the usual sentimentalizing.
The recorded sound is as natural as the playing, and I hope that Gortler and Romeo will soon give us more Schumann (dare one ask for the Intermezzi or Novelettes?).