Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Robert Schumann’s Delightful Four-Hand Works

from the Amazon.com Web page for the recording being discussed

Last month Brilliant Classics released another of its “anthology” recordings. This one accounted for all of the compositions for four hands on a single piano keyboard composed by Robert Schumann. This is a relatively modest collection, filling only two compact discs. However, almost all of the music is upbeat in its rhetoric, suggesting that these were the efforts of Florestan in his sunniest disposition.

The two pianists are Roberto Plano and his wife Paola Del Negro Plano. Both were born in Italy, and the recordings were made in the Bartok Studio located in the Italian municipality of Bernareggio. However, the pianists now live in Bloomington, Indiana, where they are both affiliated with the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Roberto is an Associate Professor, and Paola is an Adjunct Lecturer. She is also Founder and Director of her own PDN Studio.

Listening to this music, it is easy to imagine Schumann playing these pieces with his wife Clara. Indeed, his Opus 66 Bilder aus Osten (pictures from the East) was written as a Christmas present for her. I can also admit to having the music for a generous share of this repertoire, resulting in many delightful hours of four-hand playing with both teachers and friends. Because the technical demands are not overly imposing, this is clearly a body of compositions meant to be played by friends for the sheer pleasure of making the music. Nevertheless, there is a freshness in the interpretations provided by the Planos that serves up a listening experience that is almost as much fun as playing these pieces.

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