Schoenberg, Schubert

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COMPOSERS: Schoenberg,Schubert
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Klavierstücke, Op. 11; Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19
PERFORMER: Thomas Larcher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 465 136-2
This recital of pieces by the two greatest among native Viennese composers is unconventionally laid out, with Schubert’s three late pieces D946 interwoven among the individual numbers of Schoenberg’s Op. 11. Whether each sheds light on the other is open to question, but given Thomas Larcher’s dark, brooding view of Schubert, the juxtaposition is certainly not uninteresting. Schubert struck out one of the episodes in the first of his pieces, though it is still legible in his autograph and Larcher includes it here. So, too, does Mitsuko Uchida on her Philips recording – though, unlike Larcher, without observing every single repeat during the course of the piece. Schubert’s instincts were surely right: the material of the deleted episode is considerably weaker than the surrounding music, and Larcher’s lingering tempo does little to help it.

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Larcher is also very slow in the middle panel of the triptych, whose C minor first episode, in particular, needs greater urgency. Among rival versions, András Schiff’s finely judged account finds exactly the right flowing tempo for the barcarolle-like opening section, and treats the C minor passage very effectively as an agitato.

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Generally more successful is the Schoenberg. The Six Little Pieces Op. 19, in particular, are quite beautifully done, and only in the last of the Op. 11 set does one miss the sense of impulsiveness that Pollini, for instance, brings to the music. It must be said, though, that Larcher’s piano tone throughout is considerably warmer and more rounded than Pollini’s, and he has been very well recorded. Misha Donat