Schubert: Impromptus, D899 & D935

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Impromptus, D899 & D935
PERFORMER: Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 456 245-2
Alfred Einstein has been much berated for stating that Schubert’s Impromptus and Moments musicals constituted his pianistic ‘last word’. While it is true that they are postdated by the composer’s three greatest sonatas, Einstein was surely suggesting that the shorter works are closer to the heart of Schubert’s genius. Uchida has a profound knowledge and love of the Impromptus, knowing precisely how she wants to handle every single note within the context of the whole. Unfortunately this produces mixed results.

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The outer works in both sets are impressive, although the syncopated abandon of D935/4 has been tamed by Uchida’s penchant for control. However, this characteristic is turned to positive effect in the second piece of the same set. The slow pace could give rise to charges of self-indulgence, but Uchida creates an experience of mesmerising intensity. The same cannot be said of the famous G flat Impromptu, D899/3. It may be a Nocturne, but to reduce the dynamic level to the extent that some notes barely sound, if at all, is a misjudgement. It is uncomfortable, not intense. The production is partly responsible as the middle register is woolly throughout the disc. Christopher Dingle