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Franz Schubert Piano Music Volume 4



Schubert wrote eleven complete sonatas between 1817 and 1828. He also composed movements for several sonatas which he left unfinished. Sonata in A minor D784 is one of the most important singular works in Schubert’s output that stays apart from his previous and later sonatas. It is an austere, almost minimalistic work that achieves a profound and lasting impact. It is one of the darkest and most unsettling pieces he ever wrote and one of the most confessional. This relatively short sonata, by Schubert’s standards, is one of the most authentic, prophetic and enigmatic works ever written. Sonata in A major D959 was written in 1828, the last year of Schubert’s life, very rapidly alongside the sonatas in C minor and B-flat major, just a few month before his death. The speed, quality and quantity of Schubert’s output in the last year of his life are a marvel. In his last year, Schubert wrote some of the most important work that sums up his ideas, inspiration and ambitions as a composer. These incredible works were written by the artist at the peak of his creative powers with clarity and precision. In these works, including the last three sonatas, Schubert points the ways to resolving the perennial conflicts of existence: his final message seems to be that of acceptance and reconciliation. Towards the end of his life, Schubert was learning to accept death as a promise, as a blessing…Vladimir Feltsman

 Franz Schubert Piano Music Volume 4


Vladimir Feltsman, whose Bach recordings impressed me so greatly more than a decade ago, is now embarking on the complete piano sonatas of Schubert. This is Vol. 4 in the series, and it is indeed an extremely interesting approach to the music. The very opening of the sonata D. 784 is quiet, introspective, even mysterious in mood, but as soon as the volume increases Feltsman pounces on the keyboard like a tiger. Another interesting feature of his performance is that, despite the introspective passages, he takes this echt-Romantic music in strict tempo, using touches of rubato in the soft moments but a full-speed-ahead approach in the louder, faster moments.

This gives the music a more cohesive feeling than is often the case in Schubert, whose piano sonatas are more like extended fantasias. Each movement is a peculiar and self-contained psychological trek, while at the same time the separate movements never quite seem to relate to one another the way they do in Beethoven. Thus, to a point, I found Feltsman’s approach both bracing and musically logical.

By and large, I find Feltsman’s approach more appropriate in the Sonata D. 959, but this is a work where the phrases seem to follow one another with greater logic and less contrasts of mood. I was mesmerized by the opening movement of this sonata, where the tumblers all fall into place and everything makes perfect sense, and his performance of the second movement is particularly fiery, even a bit edgy, which I liked. I also liked the introspection he brought to the final section of that movement, and taken on its own merits, this was quite fascinating. Lynn René Bayley