Riga-born in 1951, Naum Grubert is a busy international artist who manages to balance an active concert-giving career with an impressive teaching workload. He also finds time to make recordings. This is the first example of his playing that I’ve come across, and it couldn’t be in repertoire more central to a pianist.
He has selected three sonatas and in an interesting Q & A in the booklet with MusicWeb International’s own Dominy Clements he outlines some thoughts on the three chosen works. He plays Op.14 No.2 with decorous elegance and a highly sympathetic sense of phrasing. His passagework is even and unflurried and he is not afraid to take just an extra quotient of time, as is the case in the sonata’s finale. His approach throughout is very distinct from those of Old School performers such as Backhaus and Kempff, in their mono cycles, who take an altogether more fleet-footed approach. In Op.31 No.2 he takes almost exactly the same tempo that Craig Sheppard took in his live cycle of the 32 for Roméo though once again the older Masters – Backhaus, Kempff, and Schnabel – all took more direct tempi. Tempos are relative matters though, and it’s undeniable that Grubert sustains his with aplomb. His performance here is well-scaled and his relatively relaxed tempos never court lassitude, being well defined and articulated. He avoids the pitfalls of making too much of contrastive material.
The greatest challenges, digitally and intellectually, come in Op.111, which he has chosen to programme first. Here the opening Maestoso
is finely calibrated and weighted, and fully anticipates the ensuing release of the Allegro con brio.
In the Arietta
he charts a fine course between the eager dynamism of Kempff and Backhaus and the magisterial solemnity of Solomon.
Grubert plays at all times with warmth and assurance, and he has been well recorded into the bargain. In so saturated a field as this – if things must be referred to as a sport – his disc may not be very visible, but it encapsulates the playing of a thoughtful, experienced, devoted musician unconcerned with excess gestures.
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