Schubert: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Four Impromptus, D935

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Dinemec
WORKS: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Four Impromptus, D935
PERFORMER: Jeremy Menuhin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DCCD 003
The veneration in which generations have held Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas could be said to be responsible for the unfortunate neglect of Schubert’s 21 ventures into the form; the dazzling formal rigour and daring virtuosity of the former were exactly what was thought to be lacking from the latter. Martino Tirimo has been performing Schubert’s sonatas for more than twenty years, and the present discs form the first two volumes of what will be a complete cycle (including alternative versions), based on his own recently published edition with movements he has himself completed using Schubert’s existing material. These performances are eloquent and persuasive. What is more impressive is Tirimo’s ability to communicate the sheer musicality and pleasure in Schubert’s writing. He does not try to force any Beethovenian purposefulness, but allows the line of the music to speak for itself and is ever sensitive to the contrasts, extraordinary modulations, passion and playfulness, whether in the early Haydn-like exuberance of the A flat Sonata, D557, or the more ambitious lyrical explorations of that in D, D850.

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Jeremy Menuhin focuses on the late works, and in the harmonic transitions and formal boldness of the Sonatas D958 and D959 – not to mention the Impromptus – we can hear just how assured and unique Schubert’s voice had become in the final two years of his life. There is warmth in Menuhin’s playing, especially in the lovely Rondo of the A major Sonata, but these accounts can seem rather earnest, even pedestrian. It might be better to search out the works as performed by Radu Lupu or Brendel, according to taste – or wait for Tirimo to record them.