Schubert: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D821

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: ArtistLed
WORKS: Piano Sonata in A, D959; Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D821
PERFORMER: David Finckel (cello), Wu Han (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 10401-2
Readers may remember a 1996 BBC Music Magazine cover disc of Wu Han and David Finckel (more familiar as the cellist of the Emerson Quartet) in the cello sonatas by Grieg and Chopin. This new commercial release finds Han venturing into more familiar territory, with Schubert’s great A major Sonata. She gets off to a good start, with an affectionate account of the opening movement, marred only by a slight dryness of tone. (Most pianists, for instance, lend the final bars greater resonance by pedalling through the pauses between their gently rising arpeggios.) The remainder of the performance, however, isn’t really on the same level: despite the fine account of its turbulent middle section, the slow movement is fatally undermined by a four-square accompaniment that prevents the melancholy right-hand melody from floating as it should; and the scherzo’s Ländler-like trio remains similarly earthbound. Han is rather plodding, too, in the finale’s agitated central episode, and the presto coda is distinctly easygoing in her hands. Of recent recordings of this wonderful work, Murray Perahia’s is exemplary in both the warmth of the music’s detail and the lucidity of its large-scale architecture. Finckel and Han’s performance of the Arpeggione Sonata isn’t quite as self-indulgently lingering as the Philips recording with Maisky and Argerich, but there were times when I wished they would allow the music to flow more naturally – as it does in the fine version by Miklós Perényi and András Schiff. The closely balanced cello sound on this new recording doesn’t do Finckel’s tone any favours. Misha Donat

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