Haydn, Schubert, Wagner

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn,Schubert,Wagner
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Variations in F minor, Hob. XVII:6; Sonata in C, Hob. XVI:50
PERFORMER: Alfred Brendel (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 470 023-2 Reissue (1981-5)
The piano sound is particularly rich and fruity on these recordings from the Salzburg Festival 16-20 years ago, and if a bit recessed, the balance is at least realistic. The performances represent Brendel mainly at his finest, and he really seems in his element in Liszt’s evocative arrangement of Isolde’s Liebestod. It’s easy to forget that Brendel was at one time known as a Liszt specialist. Today he’s associated with the Viennese Classics, though Haydn’s perky Sonata finds him in somewhat neurotic mood – nervy and percussive in the outer movements, which he squeezes too hard for the sake of projecting to the audience. But the Haydn Variations are superbly done – alert, full of feeling and brilliantly articulated. Schubert’s wonderful A minor Sonata is given great depth within stern architectural discipline, though the pulse is relaxed for the prancing bits in the first movement; the finale, not too fast, is perfectly controlled. As for that colossal torso known as the Reliquie, Brendel is one of the few pianists who seems able to hold your attention throughout its monumental first movement, which ranges from something like blandness to moments of inspired daring – courageous music, followed by an Andante of poignant resignation. Adrian Jack