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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano
Sonata, Op. Post., D960 (1828) [39:05]
Du bist die Ruhe, D776 (1823) (transcr. Liszt) [6:39]
Ungeduld, D 795 (1823) (transcr. Liszt) [2:15]
Fantasy, Op. 15, D 760 ‘Wandererfantasie’ (1822) [20:53]
Barry Douglas (piano)
rec. 27-28 September 2013, Curtis Auditorium, CIT Cork School of Music,
Cork, Ireland. CHANDOS CHAN 10807 [69:15]
Barry Douglas has already embarked on a survey of the piano music of Brahms
for Chandos and I’ve much enjoyed the first two volumes (review
Now it seems that he’s going to produce a simultaneous Schubert
series of which this present disc is announced as Volume 1. The Brahms
series has been recorded so far in Cambridge and for all three volumes
to date Douglas has used the same Steinway Model D instrument. This Schubert
disc brings a change of venue and piano. This recording has been made
in Cork at the city’s Institute of Technology School of Music and
Douglas plays on the school’s Steinway Model D.
I don’t know how many volumes are planned in this new Chandos series
but Barry Douglas has plunged right in at the deep end, as it were, with
two of Schubert’s greatest works for solo piano. In his excellent
notes the Schubert expert Brian Newbould refers to the “sustained
Innigkeit” of the B flat Sonata and that apt description
certainly finds an echo in the approach that Barry Douglas adopts. His
way with the first movement is very much to my taste. The music is nicely
paced, being not too slow and ruminative, and it flows easily and naturally.
The exposition repeat is taken. There’s strength in the playing
when Schubert calls for it but the main characteristic is lyricism. I’ve
heard darker performances and, depending on my mood, I might wish to hear
the music in that vein but this Douglas account is very satisfying.
The lovely second movement receives a poised and nicely nuanced reading
and I like Douglas’s light touch in the scherzo. In the finale his
playing is dexterous and mobile and more than once he brought Beethoven’s
piano music to mind. His isn’t the only way with this great sonata
but it’s a fine performance which I enjoyed and admired.
Beethoven again came to mind as I listened to Barry Douglas give a powerful
and purposeful account of the first section of the Wandererfantasie.
The reason I thought of Beethoven was the sheer energy with which Douglas
invests the music. After an expertly managed transition the second section
is highly impressive. Here Schubert revisits his 1816 song, Der Wanderer
D489, exploring the melody of the song through a series of variations.
Douglas leads his listener very persuasively through these variations.
Just as impressive is his storming performance of the fourth and final
section of the piece. His sweeping account
of this virtuoso section brings a fine performance of the fantasia to
an impressive end. I retain my loyalty to Paul Lewis’s dramatic
traversal of this piece (review)
but I’m delighted to have Barry Douglas's thoughts alongside
it in my collection.
Liszt was a great admirer of the Wandererfantasie to the extent
that he made an arrangement of it for piano with orchestra. Therefore
it’s very intelligent programming by Barry Douglas to include two
Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs in this recital. I enjoyed very
much his poetic rendition of Du bist die Ruhe while there’s
good urgency in the way he despatches Ungeduld.
This is a fine recital and an auspicious start to this new Schubert series
from Barry Douglas. Ralph Couzens has engineered a very good recording:
the warmth of the pianist’s tone is well conveyed in the quieter
passages but when the dynamics are loud there’s sufficient space
in the aural picture to enable the sound of the piano to open up nicely.
Brian Newbould’s notes are very good. I await further issues in
this series with keen interest.