Schubert: Piano Sonata in E flat, D568; Piano Sonata in C minor, D958

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E flat, D568; Piano Sonata in C minor, D958
PERFORMER: András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 440 308-2 DDD
Radu Lupu’s Schubert recordings for Decca have been appearing sporadically ever since the early Seventies. His account of the last sonata has been worth waiting for; it is a splendidly sustained performance, and one that never fails to allow the music to speak eloquently for itself. The subtle way Lupu handles the much-discussed first-time bars in the opening movement would in itself be sufficient justification for the long repeat. This is a moment that is rather heavily handled by Kyoko Tabe, and the languorous rubato she applies elsewhere within what is already a very slow tempo (she takes 22 minutes over this movement alone) is indicative of an expressiveness that borders on the self-indulgent. Nevertheless, she is a thoroughly musical player, and clearly a talent worth watching.

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The first work in Schubert’s final triptych of sonatas is a far more intense affair – a dramatic essay in an overtly Beethovenian C minor. András Schiff gives an altogether compelling account of it, with every note strongly characterised, and the whole work shaped with a real sense of purpose. Perhaps there is room for a broader view of the slow movement (as in Radu Lupu’s fine recording), but Schiff’s is certainly convincing in its own terms. Above all, this is unmistakably a real performance, not a piece of studio patchwork.

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Of the companion-pieces, Schiff offers one of the most attractive among Schubert’s lesser-known earlier sonatas, Lupu has the genial and popular A major Sonata, D664, and Tabe enterprisingly opts for three pieces Schubert also wrote in 1828, perhaps intending them as the start of a further set of impromptus. Misha Donat