Schubert: Impromptus D899; Impromptus D935 Nos 1&2

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Impromptus D899; Impromptus, D935 Nos 1 & 2; plus Waltzes and Ländler
PERFORMER: Vassily Primakov (piano)


Vassily Primakov is a young US-based Russian pianist with a steadily growing reputation. On the evidence of this disc alone the notice he is attracting is richly deserved. Throughout its 76-minute length the playing is of exceptional poise and finesse – the phrasing exquisitely shaped, the melodic lines both caressed and directed in ways that testify to fertile musical imagination and abundant pianistic technique in superfine balance.

For these reasons, his three nine-minute suites of dances filling the gaps between impromptu groupings prove utterly captivating in their combination of virtuosity and tender delight in Schubertian invention. Primakov may regularly linger to savour moments of particular succulence, but his masterly rhythmic control ensures that the underlying dance-rhythm patterning is never lost.

Difficulties arise, however, in the impromptus themselves – the first two of D935, all four of D899. Not least in comparison with the readings of some of the most distinguished Schubertians on records (such as Lupu, Perahia, Curzon, Serkin, Kempff and Edwin Fischer), Primakov’s Romantic musings and lingerings tend to come across as finicky, interfering with the music’s stark, profound simplicities.


The precise differentiation of each impromptu’s sound-world is remarkable – indeed, these performances offer much to admire – but for me at least the Schubertian depths remain unsounded. I’d go a long way to hear Primakov in the flesh; but in the matter of the Impromptus, my allegiances remain firmly with the pianists listed above. Max Loppert