Schubert: Piano Sonata in C minor, D958; Piano Sonata in A, D959

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C minor, D958; Piano Sonata in A, D959
PERFORMER: Mark Swartzentruber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 46690 DDD
For a young pianist to choose Schubert’s last sonatas as a debut recording looks like folly and so it proves with the London-based American Mark Swartzentruber. He gives no sense of these works’ depth and grandeur and distorts their sense of flow by contriving little delays on certain beats. He rewrites the rhythm of the C minor Sonata’s opening, so you only have to listen to the beginning of the disc to know what’s in store. After listening to the whole thing, I couldn’t go to bed until I erased the impression of Schubert shrunk and distorted by listening to Rudolf Serkin’s stoic, simple and utterly satisfying version of the A major Sonata on Archiphon, which even a shallow, tinny recording doesn’t diminish.

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Michel Dalberto is a more mature pianist than Swartzentruber and tries no nonsense with the lovely A minor Sonata, though the middle movement seems too slow. The other pieces on his disc are either lesser, earlier pieces or charming, lightweight amusement, so other than as part of a complete set of Schubert’s piano music, I can’t say I find it especially attractive or interesting. Its biggest drawback is a plummy recording which makes the piano sound heavy – better for Brahms than Schubert. Adrian Jack