09/10/2017 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

REVIEW: Solo piano album 'Ghosts' from Caroline Oltmanns

8de4586d-8a9e-441c-88e2-e4a0066ef9d2

Ghosts 

Caroline Oltmanns (piano)

Solo works by Schumann, Brahms, Chopin & Wilding

Review by Donald Hunt
 

5 stars

 

 

We find ourselves in October, which seems like a perfect time to listen to pianist Caroline Oltmanns’ new album appropriately titled Ghosts. Oltmanns (an International Steinway Artist) is fast becoming a star in the piano world, which is heavily evident in her refined, crystalline playing and charismatic persona. Ghosts, her sixth solo album on the Filia Mundi label, is comprised of particularly misty works by Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, and James Wilding.

 

Known for its emotional and technical bravura, Schumann’s Carnaval is a beast for any pianist game enough to tackle it. Throughout the twenty-two sections, you do get a sense of musical freak show taking place. Each section is a brief study of a masked reveler at a carnival, a last go-round before the sacrificial Lent period takes hold. Oltmanns takes no prisoners in her approach, taking a work that Chopin himself shied away from into a tour de force performance.

 

Continuing the theme of Ghosts is Schumann’s Geistervariationen (Ghost Variations), which just so happens to be his final piano work. As I listened, I wonder if Schumann had any unfinished business, being that he battled depression for much of his life. Since these movements are reminiscent of funeral music, Oltmanns sensitively phrases with intense reflection.

 

Sandwiched between the romantic piano works are three newly commissioned pieces by South African composer James Wilding. These brief pieces serve as interludes, moving the album forward while providing tormented, slightly claustrophobic musical statements on their own merit.

 

Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu doesn’t musically fit the spooky theme of the album like the other works, but the storyline behind it certainly does. This work was published posthumously against Chopin’s discreet wishes, which surely made his ghost fly about in rage (this unfortunate tradition continues on today with released music unapproved from the late Michael Jackson and Prince).

 

Chopin’s ghost is then carried on in the final work of the album: Brahms’ uncharacteristically virtuosic Variations on a Theme of Paganini. This is a work that Clara Schumann curiously called the ‘Witch Variations’ for its technical obstacles. Chopin’s Caprice in A Minor (originally written as a monster etude for elite violinists to take on) is at the center of these variations with Oltmanns painting each one with a vivid sense of color, lyricism, and style.

 

Oltmanns’ incredible skill as a consummate musician is evident in Ghosts. This concept album is a rare work from a classical artist that uses this timeless music to convey a hauntingly, insightful narrative. 

 

Main image: © Dario Acosta

 

 

Back to News

09/10/2017 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

An English Rachmaninov

Simon Callaghan talks to Peter Quantrill about his latest recording of Roger Sacheverell Coke ...


Julian Jacobson 70th Birthday Concert Series kicks off on 22 October

at London's St John’s Smith Square, with works by Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev ...


Ghost Variations takes a tour of the UK

Jessica Duchen’s novel, Ghost Variations, in narrated concert form this October through to February 2018 ...


This viola’s made for running

Birmingham Conservatoire student takes the idea of a marathon session to the next level ...


Other News

Steinway & Sons celebrates 25 years of the Steinway Family

The Boston and Essex lines have reason to celebrate


Yamaha Launch CSP Series Smart Piano

Yamaha Music London launches the new CSP series Smart Pianos, designed to be accessible for everyone to start ...


Pianist Magazine at BBC Philharmonic Leeds

The Leeds International Concert Season begins on Saturday 14 October, and you’ll find Pianist there too at ...


Yaltah Menuhin Award for Leeds Piano Competition

The Leeds International Piano Competition announces that The Yaltah Menuhin Award will be presented to the ...