Schumann was known to say, "My thoughts and actions are so absorbed by art that I am nearly forgetting German. If I could only tell you everything in music, how I should astonish the world by my thoughts".
For many people Schumann's words describe the way in which his distinctively mellow and gentle piano music affects the soul. It really is a world in and to itself. Schumann's piano music is also music of deceptive simplicity and because of that it benefits from sensitivity and thoughtfulness in performance. The early and late Schumann pieces on this CD, which are sadly not performed very often, have been chosen by Weiss specifically to highlight Schumann's intimately personal purposes in communicating joy and tragedy. At the core of this repertoire is the Humoreske, which reaches for an almost improvised style. It's the most substantial work on the CD at nearly half an hour, and is played without sentimentality by Weiss.To Weiss Schumann is more of a classical composer than a romantic. Her tempos are businesslike, though for emphasis slow at times. In the second movement of the Humoreske, they flow almost to a halt while the playing in the next movement could be middle period Beethoven with a kind of relentlessness not usually associated with Schumann's more melancholic temperament. Same thing in the fourth movement, as if the pianist were improvising, keen to get one idea out of the way as another occurs. As well as conveying mild hurry, Weiss's playing does leave the listener curious about what comes next. The more tightly rendered Klavierstucke are tackled in the same manner with a kind of forced relaxation. Evenness of dynamic is a characteristic of Schumann, or at least it should be. Of course another presence stalks the music, particularly the E flat major Theme and Variations, which is also called "Ghost Variations" that represents the ghost of Clara Schumann, the love of his life.
In what is perhaps the most quintessentially Schumannesque work here, the Geistvariationen which was his very last composition, does Weiss' playing really reveal and explore those depths of feeling, be they misery or derangement which Schumann knew both all too well. It was written at the time of his suicide attempt and were claimed by Schumann to arrive from another world. The great gift of an accomplished Schumann interpreter is to take us to that other world. The sleeve notes are written by Weiss herself. They provide a helpful commentary on the affective aspects of how and what Schumann communicates to the pianist. In particular she feels that playing his music gives the performer licence to exercise an almost covert imaginative imprint (a special communication between maker and practitioner) on the music. The result of the composer's measured and conscious relinquishing of control. This is a great cd for anyone interested in Schumann's piano works.