The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A mixed Schumann concert that lacks songfulness and fantasy
Musicians: London Bridge Ensemble, Ivan Ludlow (baritone)
Composer: Schumann

After a suitably mysterious opening, the players move pleasantly into the main tempo of the Piano Quartet’s Allegro; but the live recording, before a blessedly quiet audience, does not really sort out the acoustic of the Wyastone Concert Hall in Monmouth. There is too much murk for my taste, and it militates against clarity in the busy scherzo.

I am frankly disappointed by the pedantic treatment of the main theme in the Andante cantabile, where Schumann especially strove to please his dedicatee Count Mathieu Wielhorski. I made numerous comparisons and every other ensemble in my collection, going back to the famous 1935 Deutsche Grammophon recording, manages the cantabile element better. The young Londoners, though, are good in the finale.

After a sensitive account of the earlier Liederkreis, we get the four Fantasiestücke for piano trio, not Schumann’s greatest inspirations. Here it is the fantasy element that is lacking, although the playing as such is perfectly fine. Turn to the Altenberg Trio (Vanguard) and you are at once plunged into a Romantic fairytale atmosphere. The London Bridge Ensemble does at least inject some character into the puckish ‘Humoreske’.