Franz Schubert Piano Sonatas Volume 2

Second Volume of Feltsman’s Piano Sonata Series. Volume 1 (NI 6297) is available. Schubert has been described as the last ‘classical’ and as the first ‘romantic’ composer, but it is really impossible to pin a meaningful label on him. He was and still is a very special case, a lonely figure in musical history, a dreamer who brought into music a degree of intimacy, despair, hope and disappointment previously unknown. Schubert was a sincere, shy and vulnerable man (though he did not lack confidence in himself as an artist) and his personality is clearly reflected in his music.
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Vladimir Feltsman takes an idiosyncratic, extremely romantic approach to Franz Schubert, similar to the languid poetry Sviatoslav Richter achieved in this music. In his hands, the sonata in A, D. 664, is a precious, fragile vessel for youthful innocence and naïveté. His slowly-paced first movement — 9 minutes; Paul Badura-Skoda takes under 7 — draws every bit of sweetness out of the unforgettable secondary melody, and every bit of menace out of the ominous bass rumblings after it. While I usually prefer more classicized performances of this sonata, like Badura-Skoda’s, Feltsman’s interpretation is very convincing. The first movement of mighty D. 960 includes copious, tasteful rubato. At the start of the development section, for instance, Feltsman indulges in a weighty pause, then begins again very slowly. Although Feltsman’s pacing in the two middle movements is conventional, his soft touch and lyrical bent are noteworthy. This is, clearly, Schubert by a performer who also knows Chopin and late Brahms intimately.  The accompanying booklet has a long essay about Schubert’s psychology by Feltsman. You may disagree with his opinions, but you will respect their intelligence and thoughtfulness. More than is usual with other pianists, the ideas in Feltsman’s notes — such as about Schubert’s obsession with nostalgia — inform his playing. The bonus is a set of a dozen waltzes from Graz, written sometime in 1827. These are light-hearted and carefree, and I had no idea they were composed at Schubert’s peak until I consulted the booklet and back cover. They sound like the product of a fresh-eared teenager. The CD has one other bonus: in the right lighting, it is see-through. This recording is the product of a thoughtful artist working at the peak of his powers. For Schubert lovers, it is essential. For piano lovers in general, it is a strong recommendation.




"This is a splendid disc, beautifully balanced and elegantly played; I look forward to more in the series." 


Ralph Moore


"Speaking of emotion, Schubert’s very last sonata has that in spades. You would not want it any other way. Here the pianist is on firm territory, though his competition is practically every other pianist of note, plus many also-rans. If I cannot say he adds anything new, he does maintain a high score among the top third of interpreters. It only remains to add these newcomers to my already sagging Schubert shelves. Yes, they are that worthy."


American Record Guide


…Since then, I'm delighted to say that I've received from Nimbus: the first five volumes and the recently very favourably reviewed Volume 1…


… There's a plaintive melody which has always appealed and is wonderfully realised here. I can imagine some Schubert lovers preferring a softer approach but I warmed to it. The Allegro may seem to be outwardly joyful and I love Ralph Moore's comment of it being "replete with birdsong and galumphing rustic dance in three-quarter time." There is certainly dance in abundance in this movement part offset and part intensified by an underlying moroseness. I felt that, as with much of Schubert, there's an inward pain and feeling of dissatisfaction with life and that dark clouds are not far away. Certainly, Feltsman delivers a very interesting and successful take on this outwardly charming and beguiling work….

…When the current epidemic is over I hope that I may have the opportunity to hear Feltsman live; it would be a very special privilege. At the end, I gave silent applause in recognition of something very special.
The recording is exemplary with the piano sound beautifully recorded. Vladimir Feltsman supplies the programme notes and the cover has a painting "Moonlight by the sea" by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) who painted the famous "Wanderer above the sea of fog". All in all, this is an extraordinary album which leaves one drained of emotion. It may be an acquired taste but Feltsman's Schubert demands hearing. I'm looking forward to reviewing the remaining three volumes with eager anticipation.

Music Web International – Classical Review

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