Gramophone (UK): Schumann Complete Piano Works Vol 2, Cédric Pescia
Finghin Collins's first volume in Claves's complete cycle of Schumann's piano music (A/06) may be a hard act to follow but in Cédric Pescia, a young French-Swiss pianist, the label has chosen well. Vivacious, lucid and affectionate, all his performances are unfailingly musical. He plays Album for the Young without a hint of condescension but with an open-hearted delight that makes something very special of “In memoriam” (an eloquent tribute to Mendelssohn) to the fragrant “May, Sweet May”, before compelling us to guess the underlying meaning of those pieces teasingly marked only with three asterisks.
In No 39 he evokes an uncanny sense of wintry stillness, of gently falling snow and pealing bells. And all this is achieved without a hint of artifice, yet with rare poetic inwardness and pianistic finesse, qualities also present in his readings of Papillons and the Davidsbündlertänze. Here, again his playing takes wing, conveying the capricious flight of Schumann's imagination, his whimsicality, his play of light and shade. My only query would be an over-brisk tempo for the Eusebian rapture of No 14 from the Davidsbündlertänze, though his response to the coda is glowingly committed.
Finally, Pescia makes a touching valedictory gesture, playing the E flat Variations composed a week before Schumann's confinement in the Endenich asylum, before his final and tragic “fade away into the eternal night”. The tortuous final variation could hardly be played with a greater sense of its inwardness and pain and I eagerly look forward to further recordings by this outstandingly gifted pianist. Claves's sound is as warm and natural as the performances.