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Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Works: Drei Klavierstücke, D946 (1828) [32’04]. Piano Sonata in A, D664 (pre-1819) [25’58]. Two Scherzos, D593 (1817) [10’23]. Allegretto in C minor, D915 (1827) [6’18]. Adagio in E, D612 (1818) [4’51].
Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano).
Rec. Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen, Germany, February 10th-12th, 2003. DDD


A highly memorable recital, several leagues ahead of Leonskaja’s Warner Apex disc. The recorded sound on the present Dabringhaus und Grimm disc is marvellous, warm and yet detailed. Leonskaja is generous with her programme, too, just one second off eighty minutes.

The late Drei Klavierstücke shows off Leonskaja’s strengths. There is a youthful impetuosity tempered with the long-range thought of experience that works perfectly. On a more local level, pearly scales suggest fanciful flights of the imagination, while forte passages speak with a noble grandeur. Leonskaja is clearly in no rush, and this just emphasises the naturalness of Schubert’s unfolding. The dark, rumbling bass of the second piece reveals Schubert’s more troubled side – no surprise, then, that the syncopations of the final piece, while remaining playful, are never merely facile. This movement still manages to carry the weight of the preceding pieces. Listen also to the remarkably controlled inner voices – much thought has gone into this reading. Further, Leonskaja’s understanding of Schubert’s rhythmic practices means that repetitive rhythms take on an at first ominous, then calming tread.

The A major Sonata, D664, breathes contentment. Leonskaja eases her way in (the spread first downbeat is very naturally done, too). Perhaps she can play a little too much with the pulse, but this remains an interpretation caught on the wing, flowing easily and at times exquisitely (the music-box effects, for example). None of this prepares the listener for the aching intimacy of the Andante, though. From a simple beginning, the listener is taken on an interior journey in her hands. Listen in particular to the incredibly beautifully shaded left-hand accompaniment at around 4’00 in. The ‘knowing innocence’ of the finale is perfectly caught.

The Scherzi, D596, appear to be sonata movements lacking a home, but portrayed like this with their dark contrasting ideas, they stand perfectly well on their own. The cheek of the B flat goes well with the springy, delightful but not for one second vacuous D flat.

Clouds are definitely on the horizon for the C minor Allegretto (in no way can this be called ‘pretty’). Perhaps surprisingly it is in the closing Adagio in E, D612 from April 1818 that Leonskaja miscalculates slightly and forces her tone a little.

This product shares several items with Anthony Goldstone’s ‘Schubert – The Piano Masterworks, Volume 2’ on Divine Art that I reviewed for this site last October ). In every single instance Leonskaja eclipses Goldstone in terms of interpretative security and tonal nuance.

Highly recommended.

Colin Clarke


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