Schubert: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Impromptus, D899

Our rating 
1.0 out of 5 star rating 1.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Impromptus, D899
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 455 148-2
I don’t know why Ashkenazy bothered to make his disc. There’s no sign of any love for the music, or even that he’s listening to himself. The first movement of the great A major Sonata is fast and snappy. The second is casual, without pathos, and Ashkenazy merely bangs his way through the stormy middle section. There’s no sense of delight in the Scherzo, and the Rondo finale is hard and clattering.

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The first and most ambitious piece in the first set of Impromptus is acceptable; the rest is unlovely, with Ashkenazy’s characteristically brittle tone (brilliant in the right music) accentuated by a thin recording. A disc to be avoided.

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Olga Tverskaya shows much more affection and thoughtfulness in two Impromptus from the same set – with particularly subtle ‘voicing’, or shading of the texture, in the famous G flat major piece. She plays a modern copy of a Viennese fortepiano of 1823, which is a little bit muddy in the bass register. The jewel of the incomplete Sonata in E minor is the sing-as-we-stroll second movement, lovingly played here. The opening movement, too, is full of expressive shadows over which, for my taste, Tverskaya unnecessarily lingers. But at least her heart and mind are fully present – unlike Ashkenazy’s. Adrian Jack