Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Piano Works For Four Hands
Fantasy in F minor, Op. posth. 103, D.940 (1828) [21:01]
3 Marches Militaires, Op. 51, D.733 (1818) [13:55]
Divertissement à la Hongroise in G minor, Op. 54, D.818 (1824) [37:22]
Ykeda Duo: Tamayo Ikeda, Patrick Zygmanowski (piano)
rec. February 2009, Libourne, France
LONTANO 2564 69074-4 [72:18]

Many of Schubert's four-hand pieces were written for friends and pupils and probably cannot be counted among his most inspired creations. One of them, however, stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is the great F minor Fantasy. For their CD debut, the France-based Ykeda Duo added to it a lesser-known Schubert work for four hands, his Hungarian Divertissement. These two large compositions are separated by a set of three Military Marches, of which the first (D major) is the most popular.

I am sorry to say that I was disappointed by the presentation of the Fantasy. The pianists deprive the music of its momentum - in both tempo and intonation. The musical fabric is so stretched that it becomes full of holes. As if instead of a wonderful living bird we get an oversized replica, and the two performers hold it over their heads, jump and make it flap its wings, pretending it's alive. It's not. It is not flying. The music did not turn into Music.

I admit that the last section is really impressive. But the preceding sections are less convincing. Even the main theme sounds "fair and square". The slow part falls apart. And pipes and wires are visible, like at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. They were always there but I never noticed them before, being carried away by the music.

The music of the Hungarian Divertissement has much in common with the Great C major Symphony including its wide open plains. Schubert does his best to keep the listener's attention, but he gets little help from the pianists. The three parts are played at practically the same tempo and show more or less the same face. It's like listening to a set of Gymnopédies - or, considering the lengths, Hypnopédies. Most episodes are either loud tam-dadada-damm chord sets, or a rhythmic swaying. If we only had the first part, I would say it is played well: the swing is very natural. However, the entire composition is almost 40 minutes long and it needs more variety, otherwise it becomes boring.

The staccato-chord style of the Ykeda Duo suits well the Military Marches. The first is especially sunny, with authentic Austrian character and happy oompah-oompah. The second march is too carefully played to be really enjoyed, but the third is energetic and has sufficient diversity.

My general impression after listening to this disc was: it was recorded too early. The duo mastered the technical stuff but they should have sat back and thought how to make it live. The piano sound is not the best either: it has a hollow ring and sometimes seems over-pedalled. The liner-notes tell us about the pianists, about the pianists, and about the pianists. No, sorry: in one place there is a small mention that it's a "CD dedicated to Franz Schubert".

I had no peace until I listened to Perahia/Lupu Fantasy on Sony.

Oleg Ledeniov