Discoveries aren't all about pieces of music, they come in the form of performers also: Emile Naoumoff is a treasure of a pianist. This Schumann disc is uterly remarkable, and the programme is perfect: the Fantasie and Carnaval, plus Naoumoff's own arrangement of Schumann’s song, Mondnacht.
Born in 1962 in Bulgaria, Emile Naoumoff was the last disciple of Nadia Boulanger. He plays (in all the best senses) like a pianist of old, with proper alignment to the music but also with a level of personal freedom.
This next YouTube video is possibly the most remarkable Classical Explorer has posted to date. It lasts only one minute 21 seconds, but it is of the great Nadia Boulanger teaching the ten (ten!) year-old Naoumoff part of Mozart's Fantasy, K475 (as you can see, there are subtitles, as Boulanger speaks in French):
Naoumoff is unafraid to mine the internal spaces of Schumann’s Fantasie, revelling in the daring, pared down, linear writing. Naoumoff offers a gripping performance of the very first rank. He performs on a warm-toned Bechstein, one that enables both clarity and warmth.
With Naoumoff, one is never aware of the bristling difficulties of Schumann’s score; all is subsumed into one vast, variegated musical paragraph. Grandeur is the prevailing impression; as one listens deeper, it is Schumann’s linear workings and counterpoint that stand out. After a transfixing finale, one that is the very epitome of organic growth, Naoumoff presents his own arrangement of the song “Mondnacht” (from Op. 39 Liederkreis), a tender interlude before Schumann’s Carnaval reminds us of the kaleidoscopic aspect of Schumann’s output. Here, the grandeur of the Fantasie meets a teasing capriciousness. Naoumoff’s underlying aesthetic is redolent of Bolet in this piece (I think especially of live performances rather than Bolet’s Decca recording). Simply superb.
Here is Naoumoff in live performance, in the two major works on the disc, to give you a flavour of his playing (the disc, to me, is even more special). In the video, Maoumoff starts with the Fantasie and closes with Carnaval:
An amazing disc, one for pianophiles - and lovers of Schumann - the World over.