How poor the piano literature for four hands would be without Schubert! This musical form is indebted to him for its most significant enrichment — ranging from the popular marches to works of virtually symphonic size. The roots of the genre sprang from different soils. Schubert's musical invention was so prolific that often the two hands of a pianist proved to be insufficient, and thus the performance of complicated counterpoint, the countless subsidiary themes and delicate harmonic details demanded two pianists and four hands, resembling the four parts of a string quartet.
Listening to Murray Perahia's 2002 recordings of Schubert's last three piano sonatas, one is reminded all over again how great the works are, how dramatic and heroic the C minor is, how lyrical and passionate the A major is, and how morbid and sublime the B flat major is. Unfortunately, one is also reminded all over again of how limited an interpreter Perahia is, how he can play the notes of the C minor but miss their depths, how he can sing the melodies of the A major but miss their beauty, and how he can keep to the tempos of the B flat major but miss their transcendental profundity.
This provides a most welcome sequel to La Gaia Scienza’s splendid account of the E flat Schubert Trio (Winter & Winter, 12/97). On that disc Federica Valli plays a Schantz fortepiano with an extremely pungent range of sonorities; here she exchanges it for an 1827 Conrad Graf instrument that is rather more suave and silvery, though recorded with equal immediacy. Indeed, the recording brings out most vividly the character of all three instruments – listen to the start of the Notturno, where the harp-like piano chords contrast most picturesquely with the grainy tone of the gut-strung strings.
The title ‘1828’ refers to Schubert’s final and astoundingly productive year, which brought forth the three duets and solo sonata featured on this disc. In Philippe Cassard’s hands, the declamatory dynamism of the D959 A major Sonata’s first-movement exposition takes a back seat, with an emphasis on shapely soft playing that ravishingly comes to roost throughout the movement’s development section. The pianist’s eloquent legato holds attention in the Andantino’s outer sections, yet he downplays the harrowing chromatic climax. He similarly understates the Scherzo’s explosive descending minor scales, yet his delicate, witty arpeggiation of the main theme’s leaping chords delights. While the Rondo gains assurance and momentum as it progresses, I prefer Pollini’s firmer left-hand projection in the explosive central minor episode and the intelligent architecture of his dynamics.
When András Schiff completed the recording of all of Schubert's piano sonatas in the 1990s, Decca released a box set containing all of the individual discs from the series. For this 2011 reissue, Decca goes one step further and includes Schiff's recordings of the Impromptus, the Moments musicaux, and several other shorter works. Schubert's music, along with that of Bach and Mozart, is one of the cornerstones upon which Schiff built his reputation as a thoughtful and intelligent performer. Anyone looking for a complete set of the Schubert sonatas could do much worse than to choose this one by one of the foremost Schubert interpreters of his generation.
Mozart Double Piano Concertos is Arthur and Lucas Jussen’s first orchestral recording, featuring two of the most famous works composed for two pianos. Ever since they performed for the Dutch queen in 2005 at the ages of just 12 and 8 years old and becoming the first Dutch artists to sign with the historic Yellow Label, Deutsche Grammophon, the Jussen brothers are regarded as something of Dutch national treasures.
Acclaimed British pianist Paul Lewis returns to the music of Franz Schubert with another two-disc collection of works for solo piano. His fifth release in the series, this set features the great A minor Piano Sonata D.845, the Impromptus D.935, the Moments Musicaux D.780, the Allegretto D915 and the always-popular Wanderer Fantasy D.760. This release features some of Schubert's most popular and highly regarded compositions for piano and will undoubtedly further enhance Lewis' growing reputation as a specialist in this repertoire and a true heir to the great Alfred Brendel.