Composers: Beethoven, Schumann
Compositions: Piano Sonata in A Flat, Carnival Jest in Vienna
Performers: Luke Welch p
Catalogue Number: www.lukewelch.ca

Diagnosed with tendinitis, carpal tunnel and pinched nerves caused by the stress from the nearly eight hours he spent daily on the piano, Afro-Canadian pianist Luke Welch thought his musical career might be over, but after an extended period of therapy he has now returned. This CD is published on his own label and is titled The Return, although there’s no explanation about any of this on the cover or liner notes. His choice of repertoire is certainly interesting: Beethoven’s Funeral March Sonata and Schumann’s Carnival Jest in Vienna, leavened by Beethoven’s two rondos for solo piano.

The Funeral March Sonata is one of Beethoven’s less familiar and Welch handles the technical challenges of the unconventional first and the felicities of the final movements with considerable aplomb. However, I feel he misses the mood of the eponymous funeral march (“on the Death of a Hero”). As a comparison I played Barenboim (not out of retro perverseness but because it was the easiest recording to hand) made when the pianist was much the same age as Welch. Barenboim takes three minutes longer (!) and sounds more involved.

Schumann’s quirky Carnival Jest is well handled with a convincing blend of muscular assertiveness of the first movement (avoiding the bombast) and the poetry of happiness in the wistful Romanze. I wish Luke Welch continuing success and good health!