Schubert: Piano Sonata in D, D850; Lieder

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Sonata in D, D850; Lieder
PERFORMER: Ian Bostridge (tenor)Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57509 2
The D850 Sonata is Schubert’s ‘Sommerreise’: it seems, irresistibly, to be the musical expression of his joy in that heady 1825 holiday in the Salzkammergut. And, in the fingers of Leif Ove Andsnes, it’s the present excitement, the bracing physicality of it all that’s celebrated, rather than its emotions being recollected in tranquillity. Few performances are quite so exciting: the pulse races through the octaves and tumbling scales of the first movement, and the chords of the scherzo leap like mountain goats.

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But to achieve this physical exhilaration, Andsnes sets his face determinedly against sentimentality; and, in doing so, he banishes sentiment, too. This is a mistake: Clifford Curzon, my head-and-shoulders benchmark (despite inferior 1964 sound quality) shows, through the gentlest shifts of pace and colour, just how the fanciful can co-exist with and even invigorate raw energy. This is particularly important in the tenderness of the slow movement and the charm – quite missed by Andsnes – of the scherzo. Schiff (Decca) is aware of this, too, though his performances are a little over-careful, while Brendel (Philips) is full of characterful aperçus.

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The real point of this disc, though, is the juxtaposition of pianist and singer, sonata and song. EMI has brought together two colleagues whose creative empathy has already radiated live performances. Here both musicians capture that creative summer’s sense of an ever-surging life-force in the songs ‘Fülle der Liebe’ and ‘Wiedersehen’. And, despite some occasionally self-conscious articulation from Bostridge, they recreate thrillingly the pounding of heart and hoof in ‘Auf der Bruck’, and a veritable force nine of a spiritual gale for the forest tremors of ‘Im Walde’. Hilary Finch