Clara Schumann's presence in the history of European music has become firmly fixed in recent years: the many new biographies, editions, recordings and performances of her compositions testimony to her significance and influence. Her songs, not as well known as her works for piano, are among the treasures of her creative work and can take their place with the best of the German Lieder repertoire.
Following her critically hailed Deutsche Grammophon debut, Echoes of Time – and growing acclaim for her concert appearances – violin virtuosa Lisa Batiashvili meets every challenge of Brahms’s monumental Violin Concerto. With maestro Christian Thielemann and the instrumentalists of the Staatskapelle Dresden, for whom German Romanticism is the birthright, Lisa Batiashvili’s elegant, eloquent artistry finds ideal partners. Meeting Thielemann exceeded all her expectations: “. . .his conducting was wild and fiery. At the same time I always had the feeling that I was being supported by the orchestra and that I had time to react.” Rounding out the programme are Clara Schumann chamber pieces which Batiashvili plays together with young pianist Alice Sara Ott. For the first time in their careers they teamed up to play the three romances.
Jennifer Pike, who won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition at the tender age of 12, appears to have survived the perils of prodigyhood and entered her early twenties with musical intelligence intact. Here she offers a terrific program of music from the middle of the 19th century; all of it is abstract, but it brings vividly to mind the crucial trio of creative figures who met in the early 1850s: the ailing Robert Schumann, his musically frustrated wife Clara, and the young Johannes Brahms, mooning over the latter.
Barbara Bonney's recital of the Schumanns' songs is prefaced, in the booklet-note, with a little feminist homily from the singer defending the reputation of Clara as woman and artist. Clara hardly needs that kind of defence nowadays, witness recent CDs by Skovhus and Stutzmann, plus several others not reviewed in these pages; her songs are far from patronized, let alone neglected. Yet, for all the advocacy of these singers, her inspiration remains for me intermittent, though thoroughly conventional songs are occasionally leavened by notably individual ones, such as, here, her very last and unpublished song, Loreley, which vividly conjures up that dangerous creature, particu lady in the hectic piano part, evocatively played by Ashkenazy. Indeed it seems that Heine most inspired her, as "Sic liebten sich beide" from her Op. 13 provoked a setting of economically intense meaning, to which Bonney finely responds.– Gramophone [9/1997].