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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata No. 17 in D major Op. 53, D.850 (1825)
Lieder: ‘Der liebliche Stern’ D.861; ‘Tiefes Leid’ D.876; ‘Auf der Bruck’ D.853; ‘Der Wanderer’ D.649; ‘Fulle der Liebe’ D.854; ‘Wiedersehn’ D.855; ‘Vom Mitleiden Maria’ D.632; ‘Im Walde’ D.708; ‘Der Schmetterling’ D.633
Ian Bostridge (tenor)
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Rec. December 2002 No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London (Sonata); Lyndhurst Hall, Air Studios, London (lieder) DDD
EMI CLASSICS 5 57509 2 [69:19]


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Schubert composed three piano sonatas in the year 1825 and many writers acknowledge the D major D.850 sonata to be the finest. The sonata is written on a grand-scale and was composed during Schubert’s extended holiday with the baritone Johann Vogl in the spa resort of Bad Gastein near Salzburg.

Leif Ove Andsnes gives an excellent performance of the sonata demonstrating real insight. He provides an impressive balance between Schubert’s contrasting expression and spontaneity of imagination. I like the way he almost effortlessly takes the forceful climax of the first movement Allegro with a breezy confidence. With innate insight he sublimely manages the changing moods of passion and charm in the concluding movement. His playing is both eloquent and authoritative and conjures up that special ingredient that engages the listener from start to finish.

There are more recommended recordings of the piano sonata in D major than I can shake a stick at. Almost all the premier players from the recorded sound era have tackled the piece catering for practically every taste. Few listeners will be disappointed with this version from Leif Ove Andsnes which is as superbly performed as I have come to expect from a player of his reputation and calibre.

The imaginative selection of nine Schubert lieder covers a wide range of emotional states from playfulness to pathos, from dramatic scene to religious ecstasy, from passion to tragedy.

Bostridge displays a masterly and inspired feel for the texts in an enthusiastic and superbly controlled account of the selection of the nine Schubert songs. EMI’s star tenor shows a golden tone giving a mellifluous and polished account of these songs. Although personally I could not help thinking that the majority of the songs would benefit from a voice that is a shade heavier than Bostridge’s light tenor. The only other minor reservation, which I offer with tongue in cheek, is the small inset photograph of a strange and frightening looking Ian Bostridge on the booklet’s front cover. Leif Ove Andsnes as accompanist to Bostridge is in fine form colourfully playing across Schubert’s range with delicacy and drama, with finesse and sensitivity.

It is unusual to hear a programme on CD that combines a piano sonata with a selection of lieder and I can confidently state that it works really well, making a refreshing change too. Combined with a really fine sound quality the sonata and songs, so expertly performed, make a release that is well worth obtaining.

Michael Cookson

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