Korngold: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3

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WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3
PERFORMER: Michael Schäfer (piano)
German pianist Michael Schäfer is the latest performer to take on Korngold’s deliciously extrovert piano sonatas. He has an excellent understanding of the composer’s idiom: the bravado (almost swashbuckle) of sections like the Second Sonata’s scherzo and the opening movement of the Third, the gravitas of the slow movements and the expansive tenderness of the lyrical passages. And he captures excellently the premature angst of the First Sonata, written when the composer was all of 11. The Second Sonata (Korngold aged 13) was much championed by Schnabel and combines a strong sense of classical form with an almost Lisztian feel for melody and texture; the third, written when Korngold was a young adult, is good-humoured and full of character, with a rich-hued and unusual ‘religioso’ slow movement.


Each of the Four Little Caricatures is a wry take-off of one of Korngold’s contemporaries: ‘Cuckoo!’ of Schoenberg, ‘Falling asleep’ of Stravinsky, a witty parody of The Rite of Spring, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ refers to Bartók, especially Mikrokosmos, and the last one – ‘Hard Times’ – to Hindemith. Tales from Strauss is a virtuoso waltz/polka fantasy à la Moscheles or Hofmann, a tribute to a composer for whom Korngold held a great affection all his life. Jessica Duchen