Schubert: Piano Sonata in C minor, D958; Piano Sonata in A, D959

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C minor, D958; Piano Sonata in A, D959
PERFORMER: Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 456 579-2
Uchida’s recent recording of the B flat Sonata seems to me more successful overall than this sequel, which does not quite glow with the same indefinable magic; nevertheless, these are powerful and personal interpretations. Her C minor Sonata is volcanic at the opening, raptly contemplative in the slow movement, Mahlerian in the scherzo, with its sinister silences; and in the terrifying final movement, a tarantella-like dance of death, the lightness of her touch and sparsity of pedalling render the inexorable perpetuum mobile impishly ghostly. In the A major Sonata, she is superlative in the central section of the slow movement, in which she gives Schubert’s image of horrific emotional disintegration its full impact. Her interpretations of both sonatas deny Schubert none of his emotional violence, with the tautness of a tiger about to spring – beside which both Schiff and Brendel can only seem to lack tension – but this quality can, and does, overshoot into over-aggressive attacks from time to time, which can sound harsh or mannered. András Schiff captures the relation of the C minor Sonata to the composer’s Lieder, evoking the sinister smile of the Erlkönig in the muted major-key episode of the final movement. His recording is, however, oddly marred by very peculiar sound quality, as if there is something not quite right about the piano itself. Brendel’s A major Sonata is masterly, less Romantically characterised than Uchida’s, but seamlessly flowing and philosophical. Jessica Duchen