Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
The Last Three Piano Sonatas
CD 1 [71:06]
Sonata in C minor, D.958 [31:12]
Sonata in A major, D.959 [39:54]
CD 2 [47:12]
Sonata in B flat, D.960 [41:57]
Allegretto in C minor, D.915 [5:15]
Craig Sheppard (piano)
rec. no details supplied
ROMÉO RECORDS 7283-4 [71:06 + 47:12]

The American-born pianist Craig Sheppard (b. 1947) is an artist who has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic; he moved from his native Philadelphia to London for 20 years after placing second (to Murray Perahia) in the 1972 Leeds International Pianoforte Competition. Now based at the University of Washington, from which Sheppard also makes regular concert tours - particularly in the Far East - he has applied his formidable intellect and his brilliant technique to a notable series of recitals like this one, all of them recorded live. See for a complete discography.

This recording makes a good case for Sheppard’s claim that the final three Schubert sonatas should be considered as a unity. As one listens to these two discs, the similarities and internal references become quite clear. An example is the opening theme of the B Flat sonata and the second theme of the c minor sonata’s first movement. More important than these minutiae, however, is the quality of Sheppard’s interpretation: the songlike quality of the right hand, the beautifully natural waxing and waning of the themes and the development, and the simplicity and elegance of the phrasing.

This is virile, exciting Schubert, as well; Sheppard provides a supercharged intensity in the stormier sections. The D.959 is particularly full of vivid contrasts. Here and elsewhere, Sheppard commands some real thunder-power along with the thoughtfulness and intelligence of his interpretations.

This reviewer also heard the live concert performance of this recording. The clarity and colors of the recorded sound are remarkably close to the effect of sitting in the balcony at the University of Washington’s superb 1,200-seat Meany Theater, a space that is virtually ideal for a piano recital.

Melinda Bargreen

This is virile, exciting Schubert.