Schubert: Piano Sonata in A minor, D845; Piano Sonata in E flat, D568

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Piano Sonata in A minor, D845; Piano Sonata in E flat, D568
PERFORMER: Jeno Jandó (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553099
As ever, Naxos’s fluent and biddable house pianist gives a very fair idea of the terrain. These are highly accomplished performances that will appeal to those who like their Schubert presented with robust directness. For magic, though, you will have to look elsewhere. The E flat Sonata is despatched neatly enough. But Jandó sounds plain by comparison with Kempff (DG) and Schiff (Decca), with their subtler palette of dynamics and colour (an echt-Schubertian pianissimo does not seem to be in Jandó’s armoury), their superior rhythmic legerdemain and their more refined texturing. In the late A minor Sonata Jandó generates plenty of craggy energy and rhetorical force. But he underplays the elements of vulnerability and mysterious contemplation in the first movement – as in his all-too-corporeal opening of the recapitulation, marked ppp by Schubert and set in a strange, remote F sharp minor. The Andante variations are distinctly brisk and earthbound, with no hint of the transcendent in the final pages. And while Jandó’s blunt, headlong approach to the finale – emphasising its Hungarian march background – is initially invigorating, I soon found myself wishing for more light and shade, more grace and variety in the phrasing and colouring. At a fiver you won’t go seriously wrong here. But there are more probing and imaginative versions of the A minor Sonata from, inter alia, Lupu (Decca), Kempff, Schiff and, my own favourites, Brendel (Philips), for his characteristic combination of freedom and intellectual mastery, and Andreas Staler (Teldec) who makes die most eloquent case I’ve heard for playing Schubert on a 19th-century fortepiano. Richard Wigmore