Surely you might be forgiven for mistaking one of the pieces from Op 6 of Jean Louis Nicodé (1853-1919), the Prussian composer with a French name, for an unknown Novellette of Schumann. Dedicated to Clara Schumann, the Memories of Robert Schumann create a startling facsimile of Schumann’s style and sensibility.
A more original voice emerges in the Variations and Fugue but the 10 character pieces of A Life of Love return to the skilful evocation of a variety of Romantic predecessors. Who, for instance, could think of anyone but Mendelssohn in the final number, ‘Dreaming and Awakening’, or of Schubert in ‘Reue’? In his informative notes, Jeremy Nicholas tells us that the British critic JA Fuller Maitland considered Nicodé among a handful of Germans potentially worthy of assuming the mantle of Brahms and Reger. What is beyond doubt, however, is that Nicodé wrote idiomatically, even brilliantly for the piano.
Possibly the biggest takeaway of this release, however, is the superb artistry of Simon Callaghan.
Already represented by two discs in Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series, it is a pleasure to encounter his solo work.
Clearly a musician of curiosity and discernment, Callaghan’s robust piano-playing is also thoughtful, subtle and refined.
[I] look forward to hearing whatever he does next.