Schubert: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Pilgerweise; Die Sterne; Auf dem Strom; Der Unglückliche

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Pilgerweise; Die Sterne; Auf dem Strom; Der Unglückliche
PERFORMER: Leif Ove Andsnes (piano), Ian Bostridge (tenor), Timothy Brown (horn)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57266 2
At his chamber music festival in Risør, Norway, Andsnes encourages a programming policy in which different genres and repertoires are juxtaposed. This enterprising recording grew out of one such festival collaboration with Ian Bostridge, and it couples a solo piano sonata with a selection of Lieder, to powerful effect.

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Nothing daunted by the illustrious list of pianists who have recorded the monumental A major Sonata, D959, Andsnes offers a performance that enhances the work’s drama and underlying unease. His reading of the Andantino second movement, in particular, is imbued with a chilling despondency: out of its rocking melody he spins a ghostly lullaby, and rings out the mesmeric repeated notes like a death knell. It is a profoundly moving performance.

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The Sonata is followed by four of Schubert’s most hauntingly beautiful songs. Bostridge – now in his mid-thirties – is at something of a turning point in his career. While his voice still has its distinctive, youthful freshness, it is enriched now – perhaps thanks to his operatic experience – by greater sonorousness and power (though the lower reaches of ‘Der Unglückliche’ sound a touch strained). Such qualities give these performances an apposite bitter-sweetness, making this a recording to treasure. Kate Bolton