Alberto Reyes
Fanfare reviews Alberto Reyes plays Schumann

In a recent article in the New York Times, there was a fascinating discussion about the evolution of the thinking about Robert Schumann's mental health. At the time of his death in an insane asylum in 1856, sheer exhaustion was the common cause cited for his breakdown. By the time of the dawn of the science of psychiatry, there was widespread theorizing about the existence of a chronic mental illness, including what would later be called bipolar disorder. When the Nazis took over the German musical establishment in the 1930s, however, a vigorous campaign was waged to reverse this trend, so as not to besmirch this national hero with a disease from "Jewish pseudo-science." Today, the article points out, the consensus has shifted strongly back to the notion that Schumann was mentally ill, and even cites one scholar who declares that only a schizophrenic could have written Carnaval.

These considerations should enrich both the way we hear the music of Schumann, and more to the point of a review of a recording of his music, how musicians play it. Some younger musicians, including Jonathan Biss and newcomer Konstantin Lapshin, seem inspired by the eccentric brilliance of the music. Both of these excellent artists take care not to exaggerate the quirks in Schumann's style, but they share a tendency to find interesting accents, shape a rubato rhythmic outline, and push the tempi to the fast side where appropriate. Conversely, it is just as possible to emphasize the sheer melodic beauty and harmonic richness of the music in a more measured and less edgy way. Consider the superb performances of Cynthia Raim, on Connoisseur Society, which were lavishly praised by Charles Timbrell in these pages. Even without the special frisson of the Biss recordings, hers are desert-island performances.

Alberto Reyes definitely falls into the saner category of Schumann interpreters, so to speak. Coming on the heels of his excellent Chopin recital, also on VAI, his interpretations here are rich, temperate, and deeply expressive. His playing is like eating a deeply flavored roast, with a taste that lingers, as opposed to a zippy, spicy dish that is exciting to experience, only to leave you hungry an hour later. That said, Reyes finds himself with a new release of music that has been very well served on recordings, including all of the aforementioned performers, as well as a parade of great classics. And I would be derelict in my role as a consumer advocate not to note the ridiculously short playing time for a two-CD set. Raim, for example, gives us an hour more music on her two-CD set! If you can overlook this practical consideration and admire this artist's work, you will not be disappointed by this release.

Peter Burwasser, Fanfare
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