Australian pianist Stephanie McCallum is renowned for tackling the 19th-century virtuoso repertoire. Schumann presents an entirely different degree of difficulty. Though by no means easy to play, his music also demands a high level of empathy.
His three-movement Fantasie exemplifies the composer’s stormy marriage of form and content. In my opinion, the emotional aspect is already written into the notes: Schumann, like Chopin, does not benefit from extra rubato or exaggerated dynamics. Judging from this recording, McCallum feels the same way. Her gradations of tone colour are subtly judged, and discreet pauses in the music’s progress are never underlined. Nothing is over-pointed.
This is true throughout the whole recital. No thundering out the Novelette’s opening deluge of notes for her! In the Scenes from Childhood suite’s best known movement, Traumerei, she plays the famous theme gently but still with youthful energy. The suite ends with a piece entitled The Poet Speaks, in which Schumann recollects his childhood from a mature vantage point. McCallum effectively deepens her tone in response. In the early suite, Papillons, McCallum’s textural clarity is a great asset. Recommended.