Schubert: Piano Sonata in A, D664; Piano Sonata in B flat, D960

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: Piano Sonata in A, D664; Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
PERFORMER: Mikhail Kazakevich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51254 2 DDD
Curzon was a great pianist, and a notoriously nervous one. Towards the end of his career he usually played from music, and still had memory lapses. He wasn’t under-endowed technically, yet in this performance of Schumann’s Fantasie, recorded at the Salzburg Festival in 1974, he sounds effortful, and the ending of the difficult middle movement becomes, for those given to Schadenfreude, comical. It should never have been issued.

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The Schubert is another matter for, despite some egregious wrong notes, it bears real testimony to Curzon’s inimitable qualities: an endless search for nuance of touch, and a spiritual intensity which annihilates the idea of ‘an interpretation’, because Curzon’s sensibility guided him as if he were speaking as Schubert’s intimate. The live recording is poor, but Curzon’s beautiful sound shines through.

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Mikhail Kazakevich is far below this level of intensity, and compared with Curzon, seems to mimic the manner of artistic adults. His shaping of the lovely A major Sonata is annoyingly uncertain and self-conscious. Oddly enough, he’s better in the daunting B flat major Sonata, though, as the first movement wears on, you find more points of contrivance. He does the second movement beautifully, though a bit fearfully, and the Scherzo is fluent, lightly tripping and unusually – rewardingly – naive. The finale is less beguiling, very lightly pedalled and rather brittle. The recorded piano sound is thin. Adrian Jack