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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata No. 13 in A major D664 (1819)
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat D960 (1828)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge, April 2000 and January 1999
Piano Works Volume 4
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9066-2 [63.04]

 

We reach here the fourth volume of Joyce Hatto’s Schubert Sonata traversal. Characterised by clarity and sympathy hers is a cycle that doesn’t subject these works to posthumous biography. Instead a still powerful technique is harnessed to the complex demands of these multi-variegated works in which clarity and directness are the central features. In the case of the A major D664 she digs deep into the heroism of the chordal flourish in the development section of the opening movement and whilst she’s not as flowing as someone like Wilhelm Kempff she enjoys the expressive songfulness with real lightness. One of the main points of difference between pianists such as Kempff and Hatto is their approach to slow movements. It is almost invariably the case that he explores the romantic tracery of the Andantes whilst she, more aloof perhaps, maybe intent on exposing the space and stillness at the heart of the music, inclines to a more reserved nobility of utterance. Such is explicitly the case in the Andante of D664. I greatly enjoyed her strut in the finale – where the relatively sedate tempo is accompanied by fine chording and no forcing of tempo. Kempff’s control of dynamics is if anything even finer here and his bass pointing is enviable indeed.

The B flat was planned about six months before Schubert’s death – that’s to say around the time of the Klavierstücke. Joyce Hatto takes a less uncertain tone than Kempff in the long opening movement, taking a fractionally tighter tempo. The temptation to adduce a greater weight of significance to a work such as this is firmly resisted by Hatto. Her measured sensibility admits of troubling cross currents – left hand trills, incipient gravity of tone – but they are tempered by lyricism and rippling figuration. Her Andante sostenuto is tremendously impressive; the depth and variety of her tone, its calibration without calculation, is decisively to the music’s advantage. She imbues it nevertheless with a spirit of transcendence that is rightly there and admirable. Similarly in the Scherzo where Kempff takes an Allegretto-like stroll, Hatto stresses the con delicatezza indication – speed, clarity and a winning profile. The finale is again fine; maybe her outbursts lack Kempff’s powerhouse drama but her playing is still very well scaled and well judged; the swagger is in place after all.

This is a particularly fine example of Hatto’s Schubert playing. On balance it’s the disc that most impressed me of the four so far issued in this series. In its clarity, humanity is never expunged; in its wisdom, the dark is never occluded but is subordinate to the light. As an example of hope and humanity in music making it marks a fitting end to this series.

Jonathan Woolf

 

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