- Kinderszenen No. 7 ("Träumerei"), for piano, Op. 15/7
- Concert allegro with introduction for piano & orchestra in D minor, Op. 134
Pianist Jan Lisiecki, just out of his teens when this recording was released, might have been expected to take a safe path with his recording of one of the most popular concertos in the repertory, the Schumann "Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54." He has done anything but. This recording is unusual in several respects. It eschews the almost universal pairing with the Grieg "Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16," in favor of a pair of late Schumann works that are rarely performed. But the real news here is the antiheroic and completely counter-to-type Schumann concerto itself. Lisiecki takes as a point of departure a waggish remark by Franz Liszt that the work is a "concerto without piano." The comment was surely a bit backhanded, but it gets to something essential about the piece that most performances do not focus on: in comparison with the common run of Romantic piano concertos, there is comparatively little solo piano work here and quite a few passages in which the piano swirls around within or even underneath the orchestra in basically accompanimental material. Lisiecki's contribution is to tone down the heroic passages and to explore the passagework in a great deal of detail. He's ably backed in this enterprise by the indefatigable Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, and also by Deutsche Grammophon's engineers, who coax from the Auditorium Parco della Musica a wide-open sound that exposes Lisiecki's basically interior vision of the work. Another point in the recording's favor is the inclusion of the late Schumann pieces, especially the "Introduction and Concert-Allegro, Op. 134," written in 1853 in the twilight of the composer's sanity. This work, never before recorded on Deutsche Grammophon in its 100-plus-year history, was traditionally regarded as part of Schumann's decline, and the booklet notes here reproduce that view. But the young Brahms played the work often, and it had more than a little influence on his first piano concerto. Lisiecki gives a riveting performance, and doesn't try to make it fit the pattern he has laid down with the "Concerto in A minor." Should this be the only Schumann "A minor" in your collection? Probably not: it's quite unorthodox. Does it portend great things from its youthful pianist? Absolutely.