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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 4
Sonata in A minor D 784 (1823) [23:33]
Sonata in A major D 959 (1828) [41?:23]
Vladimir Feltsman (piano)
rec. 2015, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6345 [65:15]

This is the fourth in a series of six CDs of Schubert piano sonatas, whose issue is scheduled to be completed this year. I warmly received the first three in my previous reviews (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2 ~ Volume 3) and this latest instalment maintains their quality.

This recital consists of two great sonatas, starting with the typically grand and imposing middle period work, D 784. Feltsman employs a very strong, direct tone, the bass-line sonorities emphasised to enhance the sombre, weighty character of the sonata. Other favourite exponents of these works, such as Walter Klien, tend to be less percussive and airier in approach; Feltsman underlines the gravitas to serve as a contrast to the relative calm of the second half of the development and encompass that paradoxical Schubertian amalgam of lonely despair and essential lyricism within one movement. The three carefully weighted concluding chords provide a sense of resignation and acceptance. The deceptively simple little Andante gradually takes on a disturbing note as its syncopated figure gains prominence and Feltsman gauges that transition in mood perfectly. The rushing finale is played with great vehemence but in tempo, if not affect, is rather more measured than Richter’s headlong attack; it ends on four, repeated, brutally absolute chords.

That uneasy yet immensely fecund combination of dark despair and burgeoning hope is immediately apparent in the opening of D 959, the second component of this volume. The rhythmic precision and clarity of exposition of Feltsman’s playing are compelling; the listener is swept along on the melodic tide. This is assertive yet extraordinarily sensitive and fluid pianism. The Andantino begins like a Lied, plainly, almost stolidly, then the fantasia element takes over, yet, as so often in Feltsman’s interpretation, there is something of repressed violence to be heard. Nonetheless, he is able to relax into the waltzing insouciance of the Scherzo. That mood spills over into the long finale, which is similarly released and Feltsman articulates the cascading arpeggios with no strain; we are worlds away from the conflicted opening.

Feltsman’s accounts of these two Schubertian masterpieces are by no means the only recommendable versions; I prize Pollini, Perahia, Kempff and Klien equally, but this is masterly playing by a foremost exponent of Schubert extant today and another valuable step on the road to completion of the series.

Ralph Moore

 




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