Schubert: Piano Sonata in G, D894; Hungarian Melody etc

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Piano Sonata in G, D894; Hungarian Melody; Fantasy in F minor, D940; Allegro in A minor, D947
PERFORMER: David Fray, Jacques Rouvier (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 616699

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Seldom, if ever, have I found a beautiful record so hard to like. The pianism is exemplary. David Fray has probably never hit an ugly note, nor failed to produce textures of luminous clarity and seductive depth and colour. And the overall conception of the great (and potentially sprawling) G major Sonata is suitably epic, broad and lyrical (another Fray hallmark). Yet, especially in the work’s first movement, its variety and developmental grasp are seriously hampered by a regularity (and monotony) of rhythmical/metrical subdivisions that largely obscures the music’s intrinsic momentum. We get, in effect, a surfeit of syllables which fail to cohere into variegated words.  

Another cardinal feature is large-scale melodic inflection, rooted, among other things, in the rhythms of verbal speech (nowhere more fundamentally so than in Schubert, the greatest of all song composers). Still another is the element of conversation, itself dependent on contrast. And it’s here, perhaps, most of all, that Fray leaves me hungry. The essential principle of varied repetition is too often mired in a sea of symmetrical sameness. Beautiful, certainly, in its way; but static. And despite the presence of the eminent and admirable Jacques Rouvier, the same reservations apply to the duets.

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Jeremy Siepmann