ALBUM TITLE: Schubert
WORKS: Four Impromptus, D899; Six German Dances, D820; Moments musicaux, D780
PERFORMER: Lars Vogt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1285-2
For all its interest, much of this disc strikes me as an exercise in contrived spontaneity, though that does vary from piece to piece. It is most egregious in the opening Impromptu. The first G is marked fortissimo, but these things are relative and Lars Vogt gives us a sound inconceivable to Schubert – probably to any artist before the 20th century. He follows it with an exaggerated pause before pulling around the melody (on which the rest of the Impromptu is a set of variations) to a grotesque degree, both in dynamics and in wild fluctuations of tempo.
Fortunately Vogt isn’t always like that, and some of the playing is unaffected and moving, especially the Moments musicaux. That’s true in the last of them above all, one of Schubert’s simplest and deepest pieces in which, as so often with his mature pieces, it is impossible to tell whether he is breaking your heart or offering you heavenly consolation.
If only all of Vogt’s playing were on this level, I would rate him as one of the all-time great pianists and artists. As it is, I am eager to listen to more recordings or performances by him, hoping that he can subdue his capriciousness into genuine expressiveness. The pieces that separate the set of Impromptus from the sublime Moments musicaux are the Six German Dances, very short pieces that only take just over six minutes altogether, but a reminder that Schubert wrote many pieces of these tiny dimensions, which are mainly charming and carefree, and should be performed and recorded more often.