The Schumann Humoreske, Op. 20, and Fantasiestucke, Op. 12, are two of his greatest works, and I was excited to find that Emanuel Ax was performing both of them on this disc. And my goodness, does it live up to expectations. The Humoreske, dedicated to Clara Wieck whom he deeply loved, consists of a series of moods and emotions, each sensitively and virtuosically played by Mr. Ax. Right away, from the first notes of the "Einfach. Sehr rasch und leicht", you know that you are in for something very, very special. The entire performance is warm and loving and longing and captivating and...well...add as many adjectives here as you like, but it is quite simply fantastic.
The Fantasiestucke, Op. 12, written approximately two years prior to the Humoreske, had literary inspiration that was well suited to Schumann, giving him a referent to depict two sides of his musical personality. The well-written liner notes give the appropriate background detail, but the piece speaks for itself. The quiet, more introspective side is expressed through gentile, touching music that is caressingly played by Mr. Ax. The more aggressive side features more driven, energetic music (particularly in the 2nd movement), and this too is played just right - not too strong, not too maniacally, but in balance with the health of the piece as a whole. This is especially evident in the 5th movement ("In Der Nacht"), which moves forward incessantly as the energy just has to go somewhere. The two halves seem to reconcile with each other in the last two movements - it is not uncommon for this merging to come across awkwardly, but not with Mr. Ax at the keyboard.
This recording is fantastic. Highly Recommended!