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

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LABELS: Ambroisie AMB
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B flat, D960; Piano Sonata in A, D664
PERFORMER: Philippe Cassard (piano)
Schubert’s B flat Sonata, his last, is one of his most popular and when it comes to recordings one is spoilt for choice. It seems appropriate to compare Philippe Cassard’s recording with that of his fellow countryman, Alain Planès. Both return the work to a world of Arcadian simplicity, not venturing into the sphere of precious mystery represented by Mitsuko Uchida on Philips.


Among the heavyweights, the recordings by Curzon and Kovacevich are very fine, while Brendel is cool and intellectual, Schiff rather too mannered. On balance, Cassard has less gravitas and a smaller dynamic range than Planès, but his modesty and his light, humorous touch in the Scherzo are natural and affecting. Even fortissimo passages are kept to a moderate level, reminding us of the limitations of pianos in Schubert’s own time. If one has to consider the B flat Sonata by itself, Planès has the edge because his touch is more melting: he really sings, and brings out the elegiac vein in the second movement more strongly. His coupling, however, is the three Klavierstücke, D946 (another set of Impromptus in all but name), which to my way of thinking make a less attractive complement than the lovely A major Sonata, D664, chosen here. (Planès has recorded that on another disc, where it’s coupled with the D major Sonata, D850.) Cassard treats the earlier sonata with gentle affection and he may be excused, surely, the repeat of the second half of the first movement. The disc’s presentation, in a cardboard slipcase, is most attractive. Adrian Jack