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German pianist Ragna Schirmer’s tribute album includes only one work by ‘Madame Schumann’ – the rather fine Piano Trio – but her programme has a point. Each of the two discs celebrates Clara the pianist by recreating concerts she gave: a chamber music performance in Berlin (1847), and a solo recital in the unlikely setting of St Leonard’s-on-Sea (1872).

The Berlin concert opened with Robert’s magnificent Quartet Op 47 and closed with Clara’s Trio. These are wonderfully performed by Schirmer with Iason Keramidis, Benedict Klöckner and – in the Quartet only – Julien Heichelbech. The players’ mutual understanding is manifest throughout. In between are two songs, one by Fanny Mendelssohn, nicely sung by Nora Friedrichs.

The Sussex recital was apparently Clara’s last. Schirmer’s recreation opens with a finely judged Waldstein, but other items prove less successful in our completist, authentic-performance era. The clutch of Baroque items were linked by Clara with improvised transitions which Schirmer has tried to emulate, not altogether convincingly. Kinderszenen is not given complete, as was Clara’s practice (here ‘Wichtige Begebenheit’ and ‘Fast zu ernst’ are omitted). The performances are first-rate though, as are those of the closing Chopin pieces and Mendelssohn’s Rondo capriccioso. Berlin Classics’ sound is excellent.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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