Louis Schwizgebel performs Schubert’s Piano Sonatas

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LABELS: Aparté
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, D845 & D958
PERFORMER: Louis Schwizgebel (piano)

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The young Swiss-Chinese pianist Louis Schwizgebel gives sensitive and, when required, which is quite a lot of the time, powerful accounts of two of Schubert’s mature sonatas, playing the later one first, for some reason. It is certainly the greater work of the two, and is the first of the last trio of sonatas Schubert wrote at the very end of his life, in the autumn of 1828. Its first movement is Schubert’s most direct acknowledgement to Beethoven, being based on the theme of his undistinguished Variations in C minor. Schubert outdoes his hero, writing a ferocious, intense movement with mighty chords and hectic split double octaves; and the last movement is one of those obsessive almost manic rondos of which he was so fond. Every aspect of the sonata is dealt with strongly by Schwizgebel, though many other artists have given equally fine accounts of it, such as Wilhelm Kempff, Mitsuko Uchida and Claudio Arrau.

Competition is slightly less fierce in the case of the A minor Sonata, written three years earlier. It shows Schubert still experimenting with how to combine melodiousness with material ripe for development, but it is the most successful of the not-quite-mature sonatas, and once more Schwizgebel is in full command, avoiding the point-making that often intrudes in accounts of this music, but subtle enough not to make one weary of Schubert’s repetitiveness. If you don’t know these two works, this disc is an admirable and very well-recorded introduction to them.

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Michael Tanner