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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 6
12 Valses Nobles, D969 (1827) [8:35]
Sonata in A Flat Major, D557 (1817) [11:44]
Scherzo in D, D570 (1817) [3:12]
Klavierstücke D459 (1816) [22:34]
Klavierstücke D946 (1828) [29:26]
Sonata in E Major, D157 (incl. Klavierstücke D459/5) (1815) [29:05]
Adagio in G Major D178 (1815) [6:35]
Allegretto in C Minor, D915 (1827) [5:47]
Sonata in C Major, D840 Reliquie (1825) [31:48]
Vladimir Feltsman (piano)
rec. 2014/19, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6392 [76:30 + 73:15]

This is the final set in a series of six volumes of Schubert’s piano sonatas and other piano works. My colleague Ralph Moore has reviewed and warmly received the first four (Volume 1 ~ Volume 2 ~ Volume 3 ~ Volume 4) with small reservations over the first. Volume 5 has also been favourably received elsewhere. This is the first set that I’ve heard, although I have sampled a couple of pieces from earlier releases. As a great lover of Schubert’s piano works, and with a fair few recordings, I looked forward to listening to this set with considerable anticipation. Those who have the other volumes will be eager to purchase the final chapter.

Disc one opens with the enjoyable 12 Valses nobles, D969, from 1826. These brief but not to be disregarded dances seem to my ears to anticipate Brahms in his happier mood. D557, composed when Schubert was 20 is a very listenable piece and I’m impressed by the strength of Feltsman’s playing. He brings out the music’s debt to Mozart but not at the expense of its distinctively Viennese and Schubertian character.

The Scherzo in D, D570, is headed “Allegro vivace”. It offers us a minuet and trio lasting just a little over three minutes, and dating from 1817. The rest of disc one, comprises the first four of the five Klavierstücke in D459 (1816) and the Drei Klavierstücke of D946, written in the composer’s last year, 1828. These were published in 1868 by Brahms, who was a great admirer of Schubert’s music. Vladimir Feltsman’s interpretation of all this music shows a great understanding and love for the most sublime aspects of the composer’s feelings. I greatly enjoyed the intricacies of the Drei Klavierstücke, in particular the quintessential Viennese second movement Allegretto. I’d be astonished if any listener wasn’t disarmed by their beauty and charm underpinned by a powerful force. It seems to me that if one wanted to illustrate the qualities of Schubert’s piano compositions, it’s all here in 13 delectable minutes. There have been very fine recordings of this trio including by Kempff, Brendel and more recently Paul Lewis but Feltsman certainly is in their class. Their title perhaps diminishes the depth of these late works and this seems a great pity in the face of Feltsman’s strong advocacy. I would suggest that it should be regarded as a three movement Sonata. Earlier, Feltsman plays D459 which is sometimes referred to as Sonata No.4. Despite its early composition, Schubert displays many of the qualities of late works including the great final Sonata D960.

The second disc commences with the unfinished and probably first Sonata, D157, written in 1815. It lacks a final movement, so Feltsman adds the fifth and final D459 Klavierstücke. This is an interesting idea and justified by him in his detailed and informative notes. It’s another lovely work and ideal for late night listening, inducing tranquillity. The Adagio in G minor D178 follows and is in nine bars rather than eight and, as he states, is typically Schubertian with some flashy cadenzas. The following Allegretto in C minor D915 is an altogether more serious work. Composed about the time Schubert visited the dying Beethoven in 1827, there is an allusion to the Adagio of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. As with other piano works one can see the fore-runner to Brahms’s great works. It’s a very moving work and here tenderly played.

The final item in Feltsman’s journey through Schubert’s piano works is, appropriately the immense Reliquie sonata D840, actually from 1825. It acquired its name because, when Brahms discovered it in 1861, he understandably thought it was Schubert’s final sonata. There are only two astonishing movements as Schubert failed in his attempts to write the final two movements. Feltsman says: “it is one of the most ambitious, complex, monumental and prophetic works Schubert ever conceived.” As with the Unfinished Symphony, the piece works with two movements and although there have been attempts to complete it, Feltsman sticks to the two movements. There is so much in the long first movement but at no stage, is the attention distracted. It is a real tour de force and Feltsman is totally “inside the music”. The second melody which appears throughout the movement is one of Schubert’s awe-inspiring creations; totally captivating. The second and final movement starting with sigh motifs, it is apparently a lied. It changes in tempo and mood during its ten minutes and, quite honestly, there couldn’t be anything else to follow.

I’ve really enjoyed this mixture of works from various periods in Schubert’s last ten years. The constant inventiveness and surprise are always there and Feltsman is a great ambassador. The recording in Wyastone Leys is ideal. I now feel I must explore the other five volumes which I’m sure have those same high qualities.

David R Dunsmore

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