Schubert: Impromptus, D899 & D935; Klavierstücke, D946; Allegretto, D915

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Impromptus, D899 & D935; Klavierstücke, D946; Allegretto, D915
PERFORMER: Maria João Pires (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 457 550-2
The booklet for this set of two discs was the concept of Pires herself. Instead of the usual kind of programme notes, there are extracts from prose writings which are poetic and philosophical, and photographs of the pianist depicted like a hermit in misty landscapes, some of them wild and rocky. Her playing is neither of those things, but very expressive, full of light and shade and highly refined. So far so good.

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But to my mind it is also rather pretty, even dainty. She is inclined to fuss over rhythms, particularly when the texture is of throbbing chords, as in the third variation of the B flat Impromptu in the second set, or in the middle section of the second piece in D946. She is less pernickety in the first set of Impromptus, and when she lets the music flow at its own momentum, her delicacy, singing line and fine balancing of textures are ravishing. She is also touching in the eloquent little Allegretto, D915, which seems to tell a tale without words. If you like a spacious recording the piano sound here is excellent. Pires fans need not hesitate to join her for what is oddly titled ‘Le voyage magnifique’. Adrian Jack