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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Rondo in G, Op.51/2 [9.40]; Nos. 4 and 10 of Eleven Bagatelles, Op. 119 [40.26]. Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Sonata No. 20 in A, D959 [2.15]
Bernard Roberts (piano)
rec. "live", Whiteley Hall, Chethamís School of Music, Long Millgate, Manchester, 24 Aug 2005, Celebrity Recital, 5th Chethamís International Summer School and Festival for Pianists by kind permission of the Director of Music.

This is a recording of a "live" performance from Chethamís 2005 International Summer School and Festival for Pianists. Bernard Roberts, a teacher at Chethamís, is one of our most distinguished and experienced pianists, especially in the Viennese classics.

The main work is the A Major Sonata from Schubertís last three, composed in 1828, the last year of his life. Itís a stimulating choice because although it has long been in the standard repertoire, Schubertís sonatas generally have never enjoyed nearly the popularity of those by Beethoven. Of Schubertís three final sonatas, the most often played - if my experience is any guide - is the great B flat, D960. Yet the A major is arguably its equal. Perhaps the opening Allegro, most beautifully played here, is a trifle longwinded, as is often the case in Schubertís instrumental works. The Andantinoís main section is in fact beautifully songlike but is punctuated by a furious, totally unexpected central episode. The scherzo is crisp and snappy with startling key changes and the final rondo is a treasure. The thoughtful booklet note suggests a connection with the finale of Beethovenís Op. 31, No. 1 Sonata but Schubertís finale, lovably tuneful but again a trifle drawn out, could be by no other composer. Mr. Robertsí intelligent and deeply felt, though never overstated, realisation is first-rate advocacy.

The Sonata is prefaced by Beethovenís Rondo, Op. 51 No. 2, a spacious and not overstated, piece. It is followed by more Beethoven, two Bagatelles from the Op. 119 set, both in A Major, the key of the Schubert Sonata, presumably deliberate programme planning. They are respectively the perfect starter and perfect soufflé (the second Bagatelle is tiny) to the main dish.

Although this is a "live" recording I was aware of little extraneous noise and the recorded sound is natural.

This CD makes me wish I had been there for what was clearly a memorable occasion.

Philip L. Scowcroft


It is wonderful to have available on CD a "live" recital by Bernard Roberts. He is one of the UKís finest pianists and his excellent reputation covers several decades.

For this Whiteley Hall recital Mr. Roberts played on Chethamís Steinway Model D Grand Piano, which was prepared by Peter Lyons.

The opening item is Beethovenís Rondo in G, Op.51 No.2, given a splendid performance with much attention to detail, and excellent articulation of accents in the contrasting middle section. A finely judged lyrical mood comes across in the outer sections of this delightful early work having a "middle period" opus number.

Then comes the main work on the CD: the middle one of Schubertís outstanding last three piano sonatas, that in A Major, D959. Mr. Roberts brings out the magnificent stature of this masterpiece: the expansiveness of the outer movements, the delicacy of the main theme of the third movement (scherzo) so well contrasted with the more retrospective trio section. Then comes the amazing slow 2nd movement where the central section explodes in turbulence between the movingly sad outer sections. Throughout the work, the attention to detail adds so much to a memorable experience.

The two Bagatelles from Beethovenís Op. 119 set make a delightful ending to the CD: the gentle No. 4 in A followed by a brilliant performance of the very short and humorous No. 10, also in A.

The recording is excellent, with hardly any audience sound, though I did find the piano a little dry, possibly an effect on the acoustics due to the very full audience present in the hall.

There is a well-produced, informative booklet with good photographs of Mr. Roberts and the Schubert monument in Vienna.

A valuable CD of Mr. Robertsí great artistry in "live" performance. Well recommended.

Ian Milnes



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