Critic’s Choice

March 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

By David Wright

Robert Schumann

To paraphrase a certain sportscaster of old, Robert Schumann is everybody’s pick for the most underrated composer. People love his music, and want to believe he ranks higher in the pantheon than where musicologists tend to place him.

Pianist Jonathan Biss has even said he feels “protective” toward Schumann—not just because the composer is (in Biss’s view) unfairly criticized for lack of skill in large forms and orchestration or for running out of inspiration early in his career, but for the aching tenderness and vulnerability that underlies all his works.

Biss is devoting his 2012-13 concert season to a series of programs titled “Schumann: Under the Influence,” taking the message all over Europe and the U.S. that Schumann was the great un-Beethoven of recent music history, and his music is the quintessence of everything fantastic, impulsive, childlike, amorous, and volatile in art.

Wherever that spirit reigns, Biss says, Schumann is there, and to make his case the pianist plays a solo recital Friday night at Jordan Hall, presented by Celebrity Series of Boston, that matches two of the composer’s early piano piece cycles, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, and Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6, with two highly expressive twentieth-century works, Janáček’s fanciful Along an Overgrown Path and Berg’s lush Sonata, Op. 1. If you’ve been looking for a Romantic evening out, this could be it.

The performance is 8 p.m. Friday at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. celebrityseries.org; 617-482 6661

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