Carnaval, op. 9 – Papillons, op. 2 – Sonata in G minor, op. 22
Jon Nakamatsu, piano
Harmonia Mundi, 2014
The album that pianist Jon Nakamatsu dedicates to three early works by Robert Schumann features some of the most sparkling and liveliest pieces of music ever written. The three works (the highly virtuosic Sonata in G minor, op. 22, the lovely Papillons and the amusing Carnaval) are early compositions that, at least, give prominence to everything someone may think about youth and optimism, even despite the fact that the first work of the collection, the Sonata in G minor, is everything but an easy work and it requires instead a sound technique on the performer’s part.
Sonata in G major
The thread of this recording can be considered the silvery sounds that Nakamatsu elicits from his instrument. From time to time, they acquire different meanings. In the Sonata, they inevitably represent virtuosity. The pianist, apparently indifferent to the difficulty of the work, plays with fluency and creates true silver cascades, which are shining in the most vibrant passages, especially in the first and in the last movements.
Papillons is a collection of earlier polonaises and waltzes. Its title refers to the masked ball described the final chapters of Jean Paul’s Flegeljahre. It was therefore necessary that for the flamboyance of the Sonata to become lighter in Papillons, as it actually happens. In this piece, Nakamatsu depicts a carefree world with extreme refinement and gallantry.
The most interesting composition is Carnaval. Both the Sonata and Papillons are homogenous in their character and there is no place there for variety in the widest meaning of the terms. The twenty-one movements of Carnaval, each representing a different situation or character or, as in the case of Eusebius and Florestan, of the different reaction of the same character (as they are both Schumann’s alter egos), offer the irresistible chance to create short but characteristic sketches. This is an opportunity that Nakamatsu accepts with enthusiasm. Each piece has its own personality. Through the usually shimmering sounds of the piano, Nakamatsu describes personalities or situations that from time to time appears vivacious or melancholic, but always precise in their features and perfectly recognizable and independent from each other.