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This is an imaginatively programmed recital. The connecting thread is Vienna and the city’s signature musical form, the waltz. Less obviously, the starting-point for William Youn was Schumann’s visit there in 1838; indeed, Schumann is the lynchpin of the whole conception, opening with Humoreske, composed in that same visit, followed by Youn’s selection of Schubert Valses (which Schumann had revered while their composer was still alive). The other pieces offer different perspectives, not least those by Schumann’s great friend, Liszt, whose Valse-Caprice is based on three of those Schubert Valses.

Not surprisingly, the programme is rather mixed, juxtaposing the intricate and the less so, primarily the Schubert Valses which in retrospect act like a musical seam mined, either directly or by allusion, by the other composers. Youn’s performances are loving, erring to the reverential, characterised by a graceful sense of line – for instance, in the transcriptions of Auf dem Wasser zu singen and Ständchen, or the ‘Valse-Caprice’from Soirées de Vienne. There is some fine drama in his playing, when required, as can be heard in Clara Schumann’s Second Scherzino (1841) and the brief, not unpassionate Albumblatt from 1895 by Alexander von Zemlinsky.

Considering the disc as a whole, however, this is an engaging if not wholly involving release. It is subtitled ‘William Youn’s musical meditation on Schumann in Vienna’ and ‘meditation’ is the keyword here. Too often, Youn reins in the tempi, delighting in the sonorities he is creating when he needs to press on a touch more. Yet these are subjective points, and many will be enchanted by the playing and the programme, which is very nicely recorded, Sony Classical’s sound warm and spacious.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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