Drei Klavierstücke, D946; Songs (arr. Liszt) – ‘Sei mir gegrüsst’, ‘Die junge Nonne’, ‘Du bist die Ruh’, ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’, ‘Der Wanderer’; Fantasy in C (Wanderer)
Leon McCawley (piano)
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0188 67:54 mins
Leon McCawley’s ingeniously-planned Schubert programme sees the Wanderer Fantasy preceded by a group of Liszt’s song transcriptions culminating in ‘Der Wanderer’. Schubert’s Fantasy, with its process of thematic metamorphosis allowing the four movements of a symphonic form to be telescoped into a continuous whole, exerted a palpable influence on Liszt, whose own Sonata in B minor is designed along similar lines, and who made a highly imaginative arrangement for piano and orchestra of Schubert’s piece. McCawley gives a fine account of the Wanderer Fantasy, with an atmospheric account of its brooding slow movement, and a scherzo that’s as light on its toes as it ought to be. Perhaps he could have lent the opening movement greater weight by reigning in on the tempo a little (Schubert’s ‘fiery’ Allegro marking carries a characteristically paradoxical ma non troppo caution), and the same goes for the fugal finale. But there’s no denying that McCawley’s is a virtuoso performance, and carried off with admirable aplomb.
He’s very good in the Liszt arrangements, too, handling the final apotheosis of ‘Die junge Nonne’ superbly, and not holding back on the sometimes overblown climaxes in the remaining songs. If he doesn’t quite capture the sense of barely suppressed breathless excitement in the first of the group of three late pieces D946, he handles the tricky tempo relationships between the various sections of the remaining two numbers very successfully. This pianist’s intelligent and sensitive playing affords a good deal of listening pleasure.