Schubert’s music for
piano duo is a mixed collection of pieces,
with some substantial masterworks but
a good deal of what might be termed
‘entertainment music’. This third volume
in the complete series promoted by Naxos
offers examples of each approach.
There is no question
which of these works represents the
best music. The Fantasie in F minor
is one of the great Schubert pieces,
and is surely one of the greatest piano
duets ever written. While individual
movements from one or two of the solo
piano sonatas or impromptus might qualify
for the accolade of 'Schubert's finest
piano music', the effect of this Fantasie
as a whole is unique, its quality miraculously
sustained from first note to last.
This is a scrupulously
prepared and well paced performance,
with both players bringing their artistry
to bear on the music. If there is a
criticism it is that there might have
been just a little more drama and variety,
and just a little more range to the
recorded sound. For while the Naxos
recording is perfectly good, it does
not have the clarity and depth of tone
that piano duet music needs in an ideal
world. It is perfectly acceptable, however,
and so is the performance.
The remaining items
do not strive to attain the heights
of the Fantasie but they are all thoroughly
engaging and performed with great sensitivity.
The Variations, composed between 1818
and 1824, are particularly appealing,
their restricted range offset by their
relative brevity: ten minutes in total.
In his typically well researched insert
notes Keith Anderson mentions some doubts
about the authenticity of this particular
composition. But on hearing it in this
performance the case for it being by
Schubert seems convincing enough.