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Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
The Piano Masterworks, VOL. 2: Two Scherzi, D593 (1817) – No. 1 in B flat [5’09]; No. 2 in D flat [4’56]. Three Klavierstücke, D946 (1828) [28’48]. Twelve Valses nobles, D969, (1826?) [9’40]. Adagio in E, D612 (1818) [4’12]. Six Moments musicaux, D780 (1823-27/8) [26’48]. Piano Sonatas – A, D959 (1828) [37’57]; C minor, D858, (1828) [29’45].
Anthony Goldstone (piano).
Rec. parish church of St John the Baptist, Alkborough, N. Lincs., in 2001.
THE DIVINE ART 2-1203 [148’17: 77’15+70’52]

The prevalence of substantial pieces in this programme makes it preferable to Volume 3, which I reviewed recently. Perhaps the added weight enabled Goldstone to appreciate the smaller items the more – the first Scherzo of D593, a sweet bonbon, is played with evident affection, Goldstone’s careful rubato raising the odd smile along the way. However, it is D593 No. 2 that emerges as an unexpected highlight of the set (QUOTE 1), with its positively glittering right hand. In fact, Goldstone holds a special affinity for these shorter pieces: the Valses nobles, D969 are characterised by good, clean playing, a fine sense of the underlying rhythm and not a small amount of cheek on occasion!. The Adagio in E, D612 of 1818 is another discovery (QUOTE 2), a lovely piece handled with great care in the present instance.

Two large collections balance out the two Sonatas on offer here. The Drei Klavierstücke, D946 is a masterpiece (the three pieces were assembled by Brahms, no less, for publication). Competition here is fierce: Uchida, Pollini and Pires of modern interpreters spring immediately to mind, in that order. Goldstone plays well, yet cannot in truth be said to hold his own in this exalted company. He takes all repeats and reinstates the second episode of the first piece, taking the playing time to half an hour. He manages to hold the attention, though. Tonally, there is some excellent work, and some lovely, pearly scales enliven the experience. The first, in E flat minor is unsettled, but not darkly so, as surely the music demands?. He captures the magical, intensely Schubertian world of the second well, though; it is in the third that he most obviously disappoints. Goldstone himself links this piece to late Beethoven Bagatelles in its unexpected twists. Perhaps a more exalted tone, a hint of another world, would have done the work more justice.

The Six Moments musicaux, D780 are, as Goldstone perceptively comments, a ‘world of subtle nuance and deep emotion’. As always in Schubert, simplicity is deceptive and above all, elusive for the performer. Goldstone is much closer to the heart of the composer here than in D946. The second piece of D780 (A flat) is especially impressive in its serenity and interior calm. Similarly, the F minor third Moment musical (F minor) is given with a lovely touch. Each, in fact, is individually characterised and yet the set has the satisfying share of a whole. The rhythmic repetitions of No. 6 (A flat) take on an affecting pathos that is really quite moving.

And so, finally, to the two Sonatas here. The C minor, D958, dating from Schubert’s last year, is linked with the Beethoven of the Pathétique by Goldstone in his notes. Certainly there appears to be some ‘bonding’ here, although the piece remains Schubert through and through. Goldstone’s overall approach is convincing. If a tad more lyricism in the first movement would not have gone amiss, there is some real sensitivity in the second (just a little more awareness of long-range thought would have made all the difference, though). The finale is the most successful part of this account, with effective imitative work (it is also taken at quite a lick, emphasising the Sturm und Drang element: QUOTE 3).

The opening of the A major Sonata, D959 is not accorded the gravitas it requires, so it blends rather than contrasts with the ensuing lyrical passage. Goldstone displays good awareness of voice-leading, but in the final analysis this does not sound like great music. The manic outburst of the second movement does not really make the unsettling effect it should. If things improve with a cheeky and light Scherzo and a carefully shaped finale, it is not enough to elevate the interpretation to the heights.

As in the case of the third volume, then, Goldstone gives us another mixed bag. Playing the discs through, one does get a rounded picture of Schubert’s genius because of the inclusion of lesser-known works, but Goldstone’s Schubert series ultimately remains a supplement to one’s library rather than a mainstay.

Colin Clarke



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