For decades, internationally acclaimed pianist Rudolf Buchbinder has been researching Schubert's original scores and early printed editions. With his new album, he offers an unequivocal interpretation of Schubert's much loved Impromptus D 899 and his last Sonata, D 960. Buchbinder is considered the one living pianist who personifies the Viennese classical tradition, and in keeping with that, Schubert was recorded live at the famed Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna.
In a note accompanying this new Winterreise with Jan Van Elsacker, the fortepianist and musicologist Tom Beghin asks what yet another new recording of Schubert’s great song-cycle might offer. The answer, in the first instance, is the instrument Beghin plays, a newly restored Gottlieb Hafner from Vienna c1830, whose five pedals – and attendant effects – Beghin is unafraid to employ.
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.
Consummation. This is what the piano music of Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) and Franz Schubert (1979-1828) have in common, the bridge that Thomas Larcher brings to this welcoming solo recital, his first for ECM. To underscore this point, he shuffles Schönberg’s Klavierstücke op. 11 with Schubert’s posthumous Klavierstücke D 946. By turns halting and didactic, the opening pairing opens into the fresh air of Schubert’s precisely syncopated revelry. The contrasts between the two composers are obvious to the ear, but to the heart Schönberg is an extended exhalation to Schubert’s inhalation. Where Schönberg plots slow, jagged caverns, Schubert runs furtively above ground in the sunshine. Yet both seem so urgent to tell their stories, offering lifelong journeys from relatively young minds.
Pentaèdre the wind quintet whose Così: Un opéra muet, a transcription of selections from Così fan tutte, was one of the most delightful albums of 2007 is joined by accordionist Joseph Petric in its release of a chamber version of Winterreise. In this inspired arrangement, the group's oboist Normand Forget expands the colors of a traditional wind quintet by having an oboe d'amore substitute for the oboe, and having the flute, clarinet, and horn double other instruments.