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William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, September 2011

Camillo Schumann was the younger brother of the better-known Georg. In spite of their name and profession, they were not related to the great Schumann, but did have generations of musicians in their own family. Camillo held a number of provincial posts in Germany and was a prominent organizer of and participant in regional festivals. At the same time he composed over three hundred pieces of music in almost all genres, specializing in chamber music, of which we have several examples on this disc.

The works here cover the years 1901 to 1932. Earliest in date of composition are the two Konzertstücke Op.20. The use of the word ‘Konzert” implies substantial one-movement works rather than small-scale, less serious pieces. This is especially true of the Romanze, which has an impressive main theme, skilfully developed. The Mazurka partakes more of the salon, but is still worthwhile. Both pieces, dating from Schumann’s 29th year, are cast in a style that Brahms or Liszt would have recognized.

In the Cello Sonata No.1 we inhabit the same sound-world as that of the Konzertstücke, although the Sonata was written approximately twenty years later. However, this cannot disguise the fact that the work is mellifluous and well-constructed, with beautiful themes that are imaginatively developed. The Andante movement is especially moving and the last movement has a lot of charm.

The Cello Sonata No.2 is a more lyrical work than the first, but also strikes a deeper, almost tragic note, especially in the opening allegro and the succeeding slow movement. The scherzo is less impressive, but has a charming trio. I found that the last movement disappointing after what had gone before.

Naxos regular Maria Kliegel again demonstrates her ability to get the maximum emotional impact from a piece while not losing sight of formal concerns. The young Francesco Piemontesi, also known for recordings of Robert Schumann, provides thoughtful, if somewhat restrained accompaniment. Recording quality is good, especially where the cello is concerned. In sum, a disc of worthwhile, if not earth-shaking music, especially for the seeker of little-known 20th century music.

David W Moore
American Record Guide, July 2011

…this is an hour of good listening to music that could make a name for Schumann if we can hear more of it. Cellists should definitely hear this, but music lovers of the romantic persuasion would find a lot to love here, too.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, March 2011

Classical Lost and Found Best Find for 2011

One of the best kept secrets in the classical world to date, the music of German composer Camillo Schumann (1872–1946) on this new Naxos release must rank as a major romantic discovery! A master melodist and consummate craftsman, he studied with Carl Reinecke (1824–1910) as well as another great undiscovered German composer, Salomon Jadassohn (1831–1902). You’ll find Schumann’s music grounded in his namesake Robert’s (1810–1856, no relation) along with that of Johannes Brahms (1833–1897).

The piano dominates all three of Camillo’s cello sonatas, which undoubtedly explains why he referred to them as for “piano and violincello.” They are virtuosicly demanding works that may bring Rachmaninov (1873–1943) to mind, particularly the first dating from the early 1900s, with which this CD begins.

In three movements, the opening allegretto is in sonata form with an imploring initial idea that’s briefly elaborated on, and followed by a lovely flowing melody. The impressive development which is next may call to mind Dvořák’s (1841–1904) second cello concerto (1894–95). The recapitulation brings a welcome return of the opening themes, ending the movement unpretentiously.

The equally attractive andante borders on the rhapsodic, and is the quiet before the stormy finale. This is a bravura allegro having a couple of attractive contrasting ideas, which are grist for a technically demanding developmental mill. It ends with a thrilling thematic recap and final coda that make this stunning sonata a musical experience not soon forgotten!

The two Konzertstücke (Concert Pieces) for cello and piano from 1900 are marked “Romanza” and “Mazurka.” These are not light encore fare, but heavy-duty undertakings with challenging parts for both soloists. The former finds the composer at his tunefully expressive best as the cello turns into an instrumental heldentenor. The other selection is a rhythmically supercharged vehicle for both of the performers to show off their technical abilities.

A quarter of a century separates the first from the second sonata (1932), which concludes this disc. Written between the two world wars when times were hard for many Germans, and particularly Camillo who had difficulty making ends meet, this is understandably a darker, much more complex and intense work than its predecessor.

In four movements lasting half an hour, the opening allegro begins with a grave extended theme (GE), again recalling the Dvořák mentioned above. However, every now and then the clouds part allowing a melodically sunny passage of exceptional beauty to shine through.

The next movement is another thematically fetching “Romanza” that’s spiced with a curious, fleeting parentheses [track-7, 02:43–03:40]. The latter anticipates the mood of the upcoming scherzo, which has delicate bouncy outer sections bookending a gently rocking inner one.

The final allegro begins with a perky idea related to GE, and builds to a climax that could almost be out of Rachmaninov [track-9, beginning at 01:26]. This along with other ideas derived from what we’ve heard in previous movements are skillfully developed with more flashes of Rachmaninov. The sonata then ends gloriously with a potpourri of great tunes and an extraordinarily appealing final coda.

With over three hundred opuses to his credit, Camillo Schumann was for the most part a composer of chamber and instrumental works that included some for organ. Sadly enough only a couple of these are currently available on disc, and having heard what’s here, most would have to agree how woefully underrepresented he is. Let’s hope the enterprising folks at Naxos will continue their invaluable revival of his music.

Neglected repertoire frequently gets short shrift from the performance standpoint, but not here! Pianist Francesco Piemontesi and cellist Maria Kliegel play the hades out of these selections, making an even stronger case for a Camillo revival. Both winners of numerous international prizes, Kliegel can count János Starker (b. 1924) as well as Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) among her mentors. And on the evidence of this disc, she must have been one of their prize pupils.

Made at DRS Radio in Zürich, Switzerland, the recordings project a generous soundstage in a warm acoustic that burnishes Schumann’s richly appointed music. The piano is well rounded, while the cello sound is exceptionally silky, undoubtedly due in no small part to Ms. Kliegel’s amazing technique.

Mike D. Brownell, March 2011

Born in Saxony in 1872, Camillo Schumann—unrelated to any of the more well-known Schumanns, Robert or Clara—received a broad, intense musical education. The scope of his education translated into an equally diverse musical career. He was extremely successful as a concert pianist—both as soloist and chamber artist—and organist, and composed extensively for most standard genres. What perhaps faded his fame was Schumann’s unwillingness to bend to the winds of the time. Rather than exploring the progressive musical trends happening around him, his composition was firmly rooted in the late Romantic tradition. As such, his works bear much in common with Brahms, Liszt, and even Chopin. This Naxos album highlights two of his three cello sonatas, as well as the Konzertstücke, Op. 20. Schumann’s career as a keyboardist is evident in the dominant role the piano plays in the sonatas, much like the Chopin and Rachmaninov sonatas. The First and Second sonatas, performed here by cellist Maria Kliegel and pianist Francesco Piemontesi, are rich, dramatic, and sophisticated compositions, which, had they been written half a century earlier, would have likely endured better into the present day. Kliegel and Piemontesi give Schumann’s works all of the power, drama, and sweeping gesture that they deserve. Despite the thick scoring, the two artists maintain a well-planned balance. Kliegel’s playing is rich and authoritative, impeccably in tune, and filled with nuance of dynamics, color, and articulation. Listeners unfamiliar with this noteworthy composer would do well to start with this fine example of his works.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2011

To be born with the surname of one of the world’s great composers was not the most promising start in life for Camillo Schumann. Born in Germany in 1872 to a musical family, he had been a music student at the Leipzig Conservatoire and Berlin’s High School for Music before his appointment as organist at the city church in Eisenach. By then he had became so wedded to the style of Brahms that his music was hopelessly outdated by the time he committed himself to a career of composition in 1914. That it has survived is due to the efforts of one man, Harald Schurz, who preserved his complete output in a collection that also includes every available piece of memorabilia. Was it worth the effort? Well if you forget that Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Ravel and Janáček were composing at the same time, you have enjoyable music written totally out of its time. The two cello sonatas are straightforward clones of the two similar works from Brahms, Schumann providing attractive thematic material, the slow movements containing passages of considerable beauty. Eighteen years later, in 1932, the harmonic language of the four movements of the Second Sonata had hardly changed, though there is certainly a heightened intensity to the opening two movements, and something of Dvořák in the finale. The two Konzertstücke are early works dating from 1900, the second a gentle Mazurka being a particular delight. That warm, fulsome and burnished tone that has brought Maria Kliegel so much critical acclaim in the Brahms sonatas is here placed at the service of Schumann, and she is ideally partnered by the young Swiss-born, Francesco Piemontesi, a winner of the Queen Elizabeth Prize in 2009. Outstanding performances very well recorded.

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