Sometimes there are albums coming out where just looking at the artists involved you really anticipate something great.
So when I read about this album of Maria João Pires playing the Schumann piano concerto together with the LSO conducted by Gardiner, I was really looking forward to hearing this. A beautiful pairing as well with Mendelssohn’s Scottish symphony that I really like.
Pires plays fantastic Mozart and Chopin (e.g. her Nocturnes are just beautiful), and I’m a big fan of Gardiner not only for his Bach cantatas, but also for his symphony recordings with the ORR. And obviously, the London Symphony is a great orchestra.
So all the stars are aligned. On top this album has received a Gramophone Editor’s Choice, plus some other great reviews.
And then I start listening (luckily I went for streaming first instead of just immediately buying), and can’t help to think I must have clicked on the wrong album. The Schumann piano concerto is just plain boring! Total lack of passion and energy. And a perceived speed that feels way too slow. Then I check, and it is really Gardiner and Pires playing here. How could this go wrong?
You have plenty of other alternatives here, go for Radu Lupu, Dino Lipatti (a disc to convert Karajan haters by the way), Andsnes again, etc. etc. etc.
But I don’t give up and check the Scottish symphony. Again, I can’t believe my ears. At best, an average performance. The worst is the forth movement which feels plump, and on some occasions (this is a live recording) the LSO even sounds out of sync. This is not the brilliant Gardiner of Schumann’s 4th with the ORR, this is somebody else entirely.
For Mendelssohn, I’d recommend you rather go with Abbado, or Christoph von Dohnanyi.
No idea what the guys at Gramophone heard here. I just don’t get it.
Overall rating: Just about 3 stars (It really pains me to give such a mediocre rating as these are all amazing musicians individually. But I just can’t help it.)