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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Schubertiade on Piano
3 Klavierstücke, D. 946 [27:14]
Auf dem Wasser zu singen (transcr. Liszt) [4:12]
Ständchen (transcr. Liszt) [5:36]
Der Wanderer (transcr. Liszt) [5:44]
Fantasie in C major, Op.15, D. 760 “Wanderer” [21:40]
Julia Rinderle (piano)
rec. 2018, Slitar der Universitat Mozarteum, Salzburg
ARS PRODUKTION SACD ARS38283 [64:49]

I must confess I’d not heard of Julia Rinderle before but she seems to have had a lot of exposure on the concert platforms in Europe, according to the notes on this recent disc. I should start by saying that since reviewing Carlo Grante’s recording of the ‘Drei Klavierstücke’ last year, I’ve become increasingly fond of these strange, late pieces with the unexpected changes in harmony and profound utterances by the composer. In addition to that work, Miss Rinderle includes three Liszt transcriptions and the fantastic “Wanderer Fantasy” too so it was worth giving this one a spin.

The “Drei Klavierstücke” had an interesting history which I am not going to repeat here but sufficed to say, they were not published until long after Schubert’s death. They begin with an agitated piece in E flat minor, full of changes in mood and temperament. Ms Rinderle is particularly good in the more reflective, meditative passages which permeate this work - these sections offer one of those times where time seems to stand still while you are listening. The return of the opening theme at about 7’43’’ is particularly well phrased and the ending is suitably reflective and restrained. The second of the pieces opens melodiously and amiably with a lovely tune in E flat major – a nice contrast to the opening part of the work. Again, the quiet meditative parts of this work are perfectly judged and these make a super contrast to the darker and slightly sinister music found at about 2’20’’ and elsewhere (the work is in Rondo form). The return of the opening amiable theme is quite unexpected after the mysterious chromatic rumblings in the bass – similar in nature to those heard at the outset of the last B flat major Sonata, D.960. This amiable atmosphere is then cleverly transmogrified into a more jumpy scherzo like section which is beautifully phrased and pedalled. This jumpy section gets progressively more agitated and darker in tone before the cheerful theme reappears, quite unexpectedly, to calm the atmosphere for a suitably peaceful conclusion to this wonderful piece. The third of the set is more four-square and starts of bouncily. Ms Rinderle’s control here is great and she copes perfectly with Schubert’s sometimes awkward piano writing. The little part where the tune takes off at about 0’45’’ is especially good. Things don’t stay lively for long and a wonderful deeply felt tune follows, she makes much of this and the almost pious way that she plays this works very well. This almost religious atmosphere dissolves away into more confident and direct music again – there is a quite loud part about 3’43’’ which comes as quite a shock before the jumpy music returns again, with plenty of difficulties for the pianist to negotiate as the work draws towards its joyful conclusion. I feel that there is almost too much fantastic music compressed into a small space in this piece, meaning it takes time and repeated listening to appreciate what the composer was trying to say. I’m also sure that many musicologists and critics have said this but these late works do make me wonder what Schubert would have gone on to compose had he lived longer than his 31 years. Overall, Ms. Rinderle makes a lovely job of these three strange, prophetic late works, there is plenty of feeling where required and the skittish sections are played very well too. Her interpretations also seem to get better with repeated listening as new details continue to appear.

Tracks four to six contain three of Liszt’s numerous Schubert lieder transcriptions. First is “Auf dem Wasser zu Singen” which contains some considerable difficulties for the pianist, all of which is coped with excellently here. Ms. Rinderle has a beautiful singing tone and this is particularly apparent here in this, and the other transcriptions. The trick in this work is to weight the fingers so that all of the textures stand out equally and here she achieves this magnificently. The tune when played in the bass is especially clear, contrasting marvellously with the frantic leaping about of the right hand. “Ständchen” is next and here her singing tone really comes to the fore. There is some gorgeous playing here, she doesn’t overdo the sentiment as some pianists are wont to do. The ending is especially beautifully done. Finally we have the transcription of one of Schubert’s darkest songs, “Das Wanderer”. Here, she plays the stark central theme (used in the “Wanderer Fantasy”) in an extremely detached and creepy way which is perfect. The more cheerful sections of the piece really stand out after this and the whole piece is wonderfully played. As an aside, I would really like to hear her playing Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s “Der Erlkönig” as I think she would make a splendid job of the contrasts between the different voices contained in that work.

The final four tracks on the disc are taken up with the infamous “Wanderer Fantasy” the finale of which apparently antagonised Schubert so much when he was trying to play it that he said “the devil may play it”. Of course, this is an often recorded work and many great pianists have played it over the years. Ms. Rinderle starts off at an typical type of pace for the opening ‘Allegro con fuoco’ and is generally restrained in tempo throughout meaning she plays the work in an average period of time, about 21 minutes. Schubert’s piano works often contain “holes” in the writing where nothing is actually going on (often after chords end) and here, combined with a lack of pedal these gaps are very clear. They don’t interrupt the flow of music though and are not so long as to disrupt the excellent music making going on here but they are more obvious here than in other recordings I’ve heard. Liszt’s solo piano arrangement of the work (S565a, which is not often played) actually removes some of these gaps and rewrites some of Schubert’s less pianistic textures. Anyway, here the playing in this first movement is very clear and direct and wonderfully controlled with some nice nuances especially near the beginning. This opening movement leads into a sometimes desolate ‘Adagio’ where Schubert self-quotes his own lieder ‘Das Wanderer’ which gives the work its nickname. Here she plays beautifully, the phrasing is spot on and the sections where the music is a little less bleak are very charmingly played indeed. The following ‘Presto’ is actually a Scherzo in all but name and bounds along cheerfully and wittily, with plenty of chance for the pianist to flex their virtuosity muscles. I particularly like the way she handles the return of the opening music at about 3’50’’ before building up to the leaping chords and arpeggios which bring in the finale which Schubert struggled with. The fugal type finale (another ‘Allegro’) is, as the rest of the work, performed extremely directly and without fuss. I would have liked a little more power here overall but the clarity in the upper registers and especially the arpeggios towards the end are extremely well played. The headlong final rush towards the chords which end the work is very well controlled and nicely shaped. Overall, this is a marvellous performance which gets better with repeated listening.

This is a splendid recording, the cover notes are interesting and the recorded sound is pleasingly clear and precise – it is an SACD after all. Ms. Rinderle’s playing is very good indeed and her clarity and singing tone (especially in the Liszt transcriptions) is beautiful. This is a recording I shall often be returning to as it contains I shall be keeping an eye out for her next recording and hoping it contains some more of Liszt’s many Schubert transcriptions.

Jonathan Welsh



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