WORKS: Impromptus, D899 & D935
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98438-2
Elisabeth Leonskaja’s focus on the lyrical dimension in Schubert’s first set of Impromptus highlights what the booklet notes describe as their ‘inner affinities with the art song’. To my taste, her portrayal of the music’s more tempestuous moments – most notably the B minor section in the E flat (No. 2) and darker rumblings in the G flat (No. 3) – is a shade too reserved. However, Leonskaja’s scrupulous phrasing and affectionate cantabile cleverly uncover the background organic coherence of these remarkable miniatures.
In the second set of Impromptus, Leonskaja’s exquisitely crafted playing reveals a disguised sonata structure. She deftly balances key and gesture in a dramatic account of the F minor first piece, brings out the deliciously warm glow of A flat major in the second, and shapes the ‘Rosamunde’ variations in the third Impromptu with style. Ultimately, her exultant performance of the Fourth Impromptu hails its triumphant resolution back to F minor.
With excellent, naturally-lit recorded sound, Leonskaja’s penetrating interpretations of these famous pieces – offering a compelling illustration of Schubert’s marvellous evolution of song into instrumental style – will strongly appeal to collectors. Nicholas Rast