Schubert: Piano Sonata in C minor, D958; Piano Sonata in A, D959; Piano Sonata in B flat, D960

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WORKS: Piano Sonata in C minor, D958; Piano Sonata in A, D959; Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
PERFORMER: Murray Perahia (piano)
Schubert’s final triptych of sonatas demands a pianist who can command an exceptionally wide emotional and expressive range: drama and tension in the C minor Sonata, grandeur and warmth in the A major (and, in its slow movement, an alternation between melancholy and wild despair) and, in the B flat major, serenity on the broadest of scales. Murray Perahia’s artistry encompasses most of these worlds, and at their best his new performances are very impressive indeed. Particularly fine is the B flat Sonata – its first movement calm without ever dragging, and the world-weariness of its slow movement beautifully captured. (The two turns to the major in the Andante’s last section are quite heart-rending.) Altogether, this is a performance to set alongside the best – Radu Lupu’s, for instance, with its luminous pianissimo sound and its occasional flashes of genius.


Perahia is perhaps a little lacking in weight in both the tension-filled middle section of the Adagio and the tarantella-like finale of the more overtly Beethovenian C minor Sonata (for an account of the finale that conveys all the music’s manic drive and energy, Brendel’s 1987 studio recording is hard to beat); but he is admirably warm and affectionate in the A major work, managing, too, to shed fresh light on the music in the first movement’s exposition repeat. His treatment of the cascading semiquavers at the end of the scherzo, though, as a prolongation of the preceding ‘skipping’ chords, is curious. It’s possible, too, to find the terrifying outburst in the Andantino’s middle section more vividly conveyed by such pianists as Alfred Brendel and András Schiff (though neither his surprisingly swift tempo nor Decca’s unfocused recording will be to everyone’s taste). But Perahia offers deep insights into all three works, and I shall certainly be returning to him often. Sony’s piano sound is admirable. Misha Donat