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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Shehori Plays Schubert - Volume 1
Impromptus D935 (1827): No.1 in F minor [11:18]; No.2 in A flat major [7:44]; No.3 in B flat major [9:57]; No.4 in F minor [6:34]
Piano Sonata in B flat major D960 (1828) [39:25]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
rec. June 1997, New York
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD168 [75:06]

Mordecai Shehori opens the F minor Impromptu in a very particular way. There’s something latent, something provisional about it. There’s none of the brimming romanticism of Curzon or Schnabel about this playing; instead a more reflective introspection suffuses the music, something more akin to Kempff’s aesthetic. This is made explicit when one considers Shehori’s chordal playing which is not at all an opportunity for brio. The rubati add to the sense of reserve, of fluctuation; there’s less overt flow therefore from Shehori, but there is a tremendous sense of tonal refinement.
 
Again the A flat major reinforces one’s perception that Shehori is taking a measured, unheroic look at the Impromptus, seeing them, as it were, in the round rather than in terms of isolation. He allows himself a little more time in this one, phrasing therefore with greater breadth. The playing doesn’t explore the expressive current as deeply as Schnabel, nor is it as vital as Kempff, but it has its own sense of time, and its own integrity. Shehori cleaves closest to Schnabel in the B flat major. His rhythms are just a bit less biting than Schnabel’s but he remains affectionate and well-sprung and a world away from Kempff’s more skittish approach. The F minor is also engagingly realised though without, quite, the wit that Curzon finds at a similar tempo.
 
He couples the D935 set with the B flat major Sonata, composed a year later. He sets a fine series of tempi, avoiding the monumentality of Richter’s opening movement, its Brucknerian breadth, but also not acquiescing in the faster tempos of, say, Curzon in 1970 or Sergio Fiorentino in 1994. Shehori’s phrasing remains powerfully but flexibly conceived. The first movement B section is appropriately extrovert, and he plays the slow movement with un-sententious gravity. He takes excellently judged tempi in the Scherzo and the finale. The contours of the sonata emerge in splendid proportion; the music is unselfconsciously projected. Shehori’s technique is first-class.
 
These recordings were made back in June 1997, on separate days. There’s nothing about the music in the notes; but Shehori is not on a crusade here, as one feels that he is sometimes is with Chopin. I much prefer his Schubert, which enshrines musicianship of integrity, purpose and sensitivity.
 
Jonathan Woolf