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Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonatas –
No. 4 in A minor, D537 (1817) [19’37]; No. 12 in A, D664 (1819?) [20’55]. Four Impromptus, D899 [26’12].
Sergio Fiorentino (piano).
Rec. Konzertsaal Siemensvilla, Berlin on October 20th, 1996 (Sonatas) and October 18th, 1997 (Impromptus) [DDD]
Fiorentino Edition VII

Fiorentino’s recordings on APR have been well-received so far, and justifiably so, if this disc is anything to go by. Fiorentino died in August 1998 and so these performances reflect some of the fruits of his maturity. Indeed, they are imbued with the golden glow of the sunset of a life filled with dedication to great music. Everything is carefully considered, and Fiorentino easily and naturally fits in with those who do most to further the cause of the Schubert piano sonatas.

The A major Sonata, D537 (with which the disc begins) is very much music of daylight. Fiorentino eases in beautifully, obviously at home in the prevailing serenity. Indeed, the more confrontational octave exchanges around 4’40 in the first movement sound decidedly repetitive and out of place here. The second movement is quite slow for its Andante marking, but Fiorentino avoids over-indulgence; yet it is in the finale that he really shows his credentials, capturing the deceptive simplicity to perfection.

The A minor Sonata, D537, is similarly distinguished. The tempo for the Allegro ma non troppo is well chosen: the momentum generated imbues the whole with a joyous undercurrent. Rhythms are full of life (almost dancing), while the more dramatic gestures are given their due. A dreamy Allegretto quasi Andantino is touchingly delicate, while the scampering finale is nevertheless carefully thought through and sculpted.

The Four Impromptus, D899, always provides an interpretative challenge. The first (C minor), while not technically challenging, can seem over-long in the wrong hands. Not these hands, though: the annunciatory forte has real point and Fiorentino displays great sensitivity. Although it flows along nicely, there is an accompanying grandeur which is most fitting.

In all four of these impromptus, careful voice-leading is essential. Fiorentino shows this, not only in the latter parts of the first, but also in the dreamy third (G flat), where clear elucidation of inner parts helps fend off any tempting over-romanticism. The only complaint comes with the second (in E flat) which, although fluent, is not liquid, Fiorentino attempting to give each note its own life, perhaps too much so.

Certainly this should not put anyone off investing in a most rewarding issue. Superb booklet notes from Bryce Morrison are included. This disc is a winner.

Colin Clarke

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