> Franz Schubert - Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano) [CC]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasy in C, D760, ‘Wanderer’. Piano Sonata No. 18 in G, D894.
Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano)
Recorded in Teldec Studio, Berlin in November 1988. [DDD]

WARNER APEX 0927 40831-2 [66.54]


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Elisabeth Leonskaja is an intrinsically musical player, but one who impresses most live. In the studio her performances can fall short of the highest standards, even if they sporadically display her undoubted affinity for her chosen composers.

The present disc, a straight reissue of a Teldec disc from the late eighties, has much to recommend it on its own virtues. Chording is always carefully weighted and voice-leading can be exquisitely delineated. But it requires a player of greater insight to convey the timeless, almost mystical qualities which lie dormant within Schubert’s mature piano oeuvre and for a true reflection of this the purchaser is forced to look elsewhere. The transition to the Adagio of the Wanderer is a case in point: far too literal, the opening chords of the slow section hardly carry the emotive weight they are due. A tendency to dwell too much in the contrasting sections of the Presto is unfortunately reflected in the carefully executed Finale.

The engineer, Eberhard Sengpiel, has given the piano a rather harsh sound. Pollini, also, is captured in a brittle atmosphere, but his grasp of Schubert is vastly superior (DG 447 451-2).

The G major Sonata, D894, poses multiple challenges for the interpreter. The extended first movement (here over twenty minutes) can become leaden if the concentration is allowed to sag (the marking is ‘Molto moderato e cantabile’). Leonskaja’s tonal variety is insufficient to maintain interest throughout, mainly because she cannot project the requisite atmosphere of transcendent calm. The whole sonata continues in the same vein: Schubert’s remaining tempo markings are Andante, Allegro moderato and Allegretto, and although Leonskaja achieves echt-Schubertian simplicity at times and provides a characterful finale, it is not enough to lift the listening experience above the merely adequate.

Unfortunately, even at super-budget price this disc does not offer enough to be recommendable.

  Warner’s presentation is, as always with the Ultima series, minimal, but at least recording details of date, producer and engineer are included. The programme notes are uncredited, but whoever wrote them refers to Schubert as ‘a master of the opera’


Colin Clarke




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