"I always knew that Schubert would be my great
love." So says Leif Ove Andsnes in a booklet interview to accompany
this all-Schubert disc, which brings together some of the late songs
with one of that tragic composer’s most tragic masterpieces, the A minor
piano sonata. One can well believe it, on the evidence of this gorgeous
Schubert disc, full of poetry and empfeinsamkeit.
The meat of the album is the late piano sonata, a vibrant
reading, with a brightly articulated approach that is more amused by
the bizarre harmonic shifts and oddities than scared by them. Whereas
Mitsuko Uchida’s recent Schubert series was darkly coloured, Andsnes’
is more wide-eyed and enraptured by Schubert’s noble language. That’s
not to say he hasn’t a feel for the troubles within the sonata – the
spooky episode at the end of the first movement is deliciously delicate
– but there is a nobility throughout that seems deeply appropriate for
this work. The Beethovenian finale is especially gorgeous, a beautiful
summit to a beautiful rendition. Highly recommended.
The coupling is surprisingly disappointing. Given the
centrality of melody and song to Schubert’s output, it seems a marvellous
idea to mix in a couple of lied to the disc, and the luxury of calling
on Ian Bostridge seems like a banker. But there are virtually no connections
brought to light between the piano sonata and the songs that fill the
rest of the CD, and Bostridge’s voice – instantly recognisable – seems
like an intrusion. Without the cumulative power of a group of lied,
and despite the (overly?) beautiful singing, the songs seem like fillers.
Only Auf dem Ström, with its beautiful horn obbligato (played with
plenty of oomph by Timothy Brown of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe),
is worth its place for its boldness and substance.