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Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
Piano Sonata No. 5 in Ab, D557 (1817) [11.32]
Piano Sonata No. 7a in Db, D567 (1817) [21.48]
Piano Sonata No. 11 in C, D613/612 (1818) [15.04]
Piano Sonata No. 12 in f, D625/505 (1818) [20.45]
Gottlieb Wallisch, piano
Notes in English and Deutsch.
Recorded at Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK, 5 November 2002
NAXOS 8.557189 [69.09]

Most of Schubert’s sonata fragments derive from the years 1817-23. In the past there have been attempts at completion but for this recording pianist Gotttlieb Wallisch has left them as they stand. It’s a curious feature of the piano sonatas that there are even more unfinished sonatas than completed ones – such was the fecundity of his imagination and the dissatisfactions (difficult now to quantify or analyse) felt regarding them.

The A flat major D557 provides something of a key conundrum over whether there is a lost movement. In three gracious – and extant - movements this is a fluent and winning work, Gottlieb even managing to bind together the discursive writing of the Andante with considerable skill. The D flat major D567 is genuinely incomplete, missing one page of the third movement, but is also more overtly mature stylistically and was transposed later into E Flat major, given an added Minuet and Trio and rechristened D568. Wallisch is acutely responsive to the austerity and gravity of the slow movement but he takes it at a forward moving tempo; one I can imagine being just slightly more relaxed. The Moderato first movement of the C major is delightfully lyrical and the interpolated Adagio from D612 works convincingly well – with Gottlieb breaking off where Schubert did. In the case of the Allegro conclusion to D625/505 the stern Beethovenian trill announces an arresting moment of gravity. In his notes – as eloquent as his pianism – Gottlieb notes that the work as a whole is particularly forward looking, aligning it specifically with Liszt and Chopin. Whether one places it there or not it’s clearly the most important and imposing music here and receives playing of a comparable standard.

Wallisch really does show himself to be a natural and unaffected Schubertian. He is fortunate to have a sympathetic acoustic but the performance kudos rests with him alone.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Paul Shoemaker


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