MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.

281,202 performance reviews were read in October.

Other Links


Editorial Board

  • Editor - Bill Kenny
  • London Editor-Melanie Eskenazi
  • Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb



Schubert:  Elisabeth Leonskaya (piano) Wigmore 1.11. 2007 (CC)


Way back in January Elisabeth Leonskaya gave a memorable recital at the QEH that included the Tchaikovsky Sonata and all four Chopin Scherzos. What intrigued about this Wigmore event was the presentation of Schubert's final three piano sonatas in one evening. Though not a task for the faint-hearted,  the result was another reiteration of Leonskaya's stature. Her status among the record buying public seems undervalued, perhaps in part because of the recording teams; thus a Dabringhaus und Grimm disc brought forth praise from myself, while her Warner recordings (read an example review here) have failed even to begin to scale the same heights.


Leonskaya has the ability to deploy a huge sound when necessary. The weight seems to come through her arms, and yet her fingers retain all the required nimbleness.  Thus the opening of the C minor Sonata (D958) carried huge gravitas - arguably too much for the Wigmore's acoustic!  Like many of her Russian compatriots, she is unafraid of dry attacks, yet her sound is richer in the flesh than her Warner recordings lead one to believe. True, musical smiles are not part of her vocabulary. Rather, her script seemed to be to reveal Schubert's greatness in all its glory and the objectified leanings evinced by her Adagio seemed perfectly fitting to her outlook - what amazing bass staccato, though! Silences really spoke in the third movement before tenderness was transmogrified into unashamed zaniness in the finale.

If there is an element of Schubert at arm's length to Leonskaya - certainly compared to Uchida and Imogen Cooper -  her reading contained its own compelling qualities though  perhaps the A major, D959 suited Leonskaya a touch less. The sudden contrasts of the first movement were subsumed within an impeccably organic growth, but it was quite shocking to have the barren abyss of the second movement almost sound Russian and then to hear the sudden outburst of this Andantino sound more hallucinogenic than Winterreise-isch. The puckish element of the Scherzo was a clear attempt to banish the slow movement's despair but the finale's fragmentation towards its close acted as a clear reminder of this work's dark side.

These two sonatas took up the first half of the concert, which lasted some one hour and twenty minutes so the great B flat Sonata  D960, was the only work in the second half. The performance standard matched that of the first part of the concert and the opening theme was beautifully serene and unhurried. The use of definitely terraced dynamics gave clarity to the structure – beauty for beauty's sake was simply not part of the equation here. Simple gestures  instead spoke volumes, especially in the luminous Andante sostenuto. Bringing real sophistication to the Scherzo's Trio was a foil for the quirky finale, with its interrupting octaves sounding like the tolling of a bell. Superb. On record recently,  I have been enjoying Eduard Erdmann (on Orfeo C722071B, coupled with the Reger Piano Concerto and Schumann's Op. 4 Intermezzi), but Leonskaya's reading had its own logic and momentum.

This was a long concert, but the marathon aspect seemed to hardly matter to Leonskaya, who clearly has the stamina of an ox. May she continue to grace London stages for a long time to come.


Colin Clarke



Back to Top                                                    Cumulative Index Page