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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Franz SCHUBERT (1796-1828)
Overture in F major, D.675 (1819)
Fantasie in F minor, D.940 (1828)
German Dances, D.618 (1818)
Variations, D.968a (1818-24)
Marches héroïques, D.602 (1818-24)
Jenö Jandó and Zsuzsa Kollár (piano)
Recorded 1-4 April 1998, Phoenix Studio, Budapest
Piano Works for Four Hands, Volume 3
NAXOS 8.554513 [59.23]

 

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.

Terry Barfoot

 

 



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