Classical reviews: Beethoven and Schumann

Michael Church
·2-min read
The German composer Robert Schumann’s piano works are performed by pianist Nino Gvetadze on her new CD (Rex Features)
The German composer Robert Schumann’s piano works are performed by pianist Nino Gvetadze on her new CD (Rex Features)

Beethoven: Christ on the Mount of Olives

London Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle



This is an important release, not only for the quality of its performance but also because the work is very seldom performed: in most people’s minds it falls uneasily between the categories of opera and devotional oratorio. As Lindsay Kemp explains in his liner note, its composition was inspired by external circumstances. Oratorio was a popular art-form in late 18th century Vienna, and although Beethoven would not have known Bach’s Passions, he would certainly have known the work of Handel. Haydn’s Creation and The Seasons, meanwhile, were contemporary hits. Yet as the awkward construction of Fidelio showed, Beethoven was not a natural dramatist: for him, the drama lay in the music, not the libretto.

Christ on the Mount of Olives – Christus am Őlberge – focused on Christ’s soul-searching in the Garden of Gethsemane, and its libretto is simply not strong enough to bear the weight of the music. But that music, as performed here, is full of beauty and splendour thanks to a brilliant chorus and a superb line-up of soloists: soprano Elsa Dreisig, tenor Pavol Breslik, and bass David Soar.

Robert Schumann: Einsam Piano Works

Nino Gvetadze, piano



The international circuit can be a cruel place for pianists if they don’t have powerful record companies to promote them, and if they are not natural media tarts, ready to give interviews at the drop of a hat. Such is the case with the Georgian pianist Nino Gvetadze, who has been overshadowed by showier but less refined compatriots who have hogged the coverage.

Her new CD, with its purpose – in her own words, to brighten an hour in this year of “loneliness, isolation, and silence” – is an unalloyed delight. Its programme - including Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, and “Vogel als Prophet” (Bird as Prophet) – coheres beautifully, and its title, which translates as lonely, has been adroitly chosen. Her manner with Kinderszenen “scenes from childhood” is sweetly conversational, and her Kreisleriana has a wonderfully relaxed eloquence. Her “Vogel als Prophet” is exquisite beyond words.

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