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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata in G major “Fantasie”, D.894 [41:54]
Piano Sonata in C minor, D.958 [31:58]
Adam Laloum (piano)
rec. 2019, Église Luthérienne du Bon Secours, Paris
HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902660 [73:56]

I’ve missed the work of Adam Laloum so far, but I was really impressed by this Schubert disc. This, his debut recording for Harmonia Mundi, is a sensitive coupling, combining one of Schubert’s most expansive, ruminative sonatas with one of his most tightly argued and compressed.

Let’s start with the tightly argued one. He attacks the opening of the C minor sonata with real punch, grabbing your attention right from the off. However, this drama is rapidly offset by filigree pianistic delicacy which leads into the gently reflective second subject, and the end of the exposition is almost like a Dance of the Trolls that has escaped from one of the Moments Musicaux. That movement then ends on what feels like unresolved disquiet, before the slow movement’s opening takes us to a completely different place of stillness and emotional depth.

The ability to run through such a range of emotions with such security and skill shows that Laloum has one of the most important skills you need from a Schubert pianist: the ability to capture each work’s emotional duality; its inability – or refusal – to settle on something as simple as happiness or sadness, but instead to quiver delicately between both paths. That slow movement never quite finds its peace, and the Menuetto can’t seem to decide whether it’s jolly or upset. That’s a difficult balance to strike, but Laloum does a damn fine job, before giving us a finale that masquerades as an edgy tarantella.

As for the G major sonata, the expansive opening movement unfolds like a dream; quietly, unobtrusively, but with a gentle sense of going about his business. Laloum takes the repeat, which makes the whole movement extremely hefty, something that won’t be to everyone’s taste and which, clocking in at more than 21 minutes, makes it take up half the length of the whole sonata. However, it never feels heavy, or like it overstays its welcome. The subsequent movements can’t quite avoid sounding like afterthoughts, but you could argue that that’s a structural issue with the work, and this was a journey in which I was happy to linger, losing myself in its poetry and calm sense of unhurried unfolding.

If you’re looking for a direct comparison then I confess I was slightly more taken with David Fray’s Erato recording of the G major sonata, perhaps because his previous Schubert CD had already made me favourably disposed towards him. However, if you want this coupling then I doubt you’ll be disappointed. The pianism is excellent, of the sit-up-and-take-notice variety, and the recorded sound is up to Harmonia Mundi’s typically excellent standard; full, rich & resonant.

Simon Thompson

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