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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat, D960 [46:49]
Der Muller und der Bach (arr. Liszt) [4:53]
Der Doppelgänger (arr. Liszt) [4:02]
Soirées de Vienne, Valse-Caprice No. 6 (arr. Liszt) [6:23]
Frédéric d’Oria-Nicolas (piano)
rec. 2008, France (specifics not provided with download)
FONDAMENTA FON0801001 [62:08]

Frédéric d’Oria-Nicolas here offers Schubert which isn’t quite as interesting as the soloist’s own name. The piano sonata D960 is the big work, but it suffers from d’Oria-Nicolas’s habit of constantly inserting cutesy little pauses. The first one is within the first few seconds; then they appear virtually by the minute through the rest of the album. Remember how, in Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, Michael Palin’s silly walk was a regular walk where he occasionally paused mid-stride? That is the best analogy I can think of. That, or imagine the exact opposite of Tourette’s: spontaneous, uncontrollable bursts of silence.
This habit is not the only strike against the album. A slightly glassy, colourless piano pickup does not help; I do not know whether to blame the performer or the label, although Fondamenta recently released an excellently engineered piano recital of Chopin. That was recorded four years later; probably they’ve learned. Even if the sound were good, and even if those darn pauses weren’t sprayed like shotgun pellets across Schubert’s score, I still wouldn’t fully agree with d’Oria-Nicolas’s vision of the piece. The first movement is slow and draggy, and the scherzo doesn’t have the fragile glittery quality some of my favourite performers - Lupu, Lazic, Endres - can bring.
There’s plenty of room for unusual or eccentric interpretations of this sonata. If you love this piece and want to stimulate your brain with a recent recording that casts the work in a new light, try Edward Rosser instead. If you have a burning need for the name d’Oria-Nicolas in your collection, consider saving money by downloading the Schubert/Liszt song encores by themselves. They absorb the performer’s personality better.
Brian Reinhart 

masterwork Index: Schubert piano sonata D960