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.