Schubert, Pauset

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COMPOSERS: Pauset,Schubert
WORKS: Piano Sonata in A minor, D845; Kontra-Sonate
PERFORMER: Andreas Staier (pianoforte)
The two movements of the Kontra-Sonate by the French composer Brice Pauset were specifically designed to frame Andreas Staier’s performance of Schubert’s big A minor Sonata, D845, allowing that work to approach us as though from the distant realms of the past. Wisely, Pauset doesn’t quote directly from the Schubert, but his piece does contain gestures – violent chords, fleeting glimpses of swirling A minor figuration – that arise out of it. Towards the end of the long opening movement, the music settles on a long trill on the notes C and B natural, forming a natural bridge to the same two notes at the start of Schubert’s Sonata; and in much the same way Pauset’s second movement takes its point of departure from Schubert’s finale. The concept is an interesting one, though don’t expect it to shed new light on Schubert’s masterpiece. Staier plays both works on a copy of an 1827 piano by Conrad Graf. His performance of the Schubert begins well, and the soft-toned instrument is particularly well suited to the long ppp passages in the opening movement; but alas he becomes increasingly mannered in the Sonata’s latter half. His habit of arpeggiating left-hand chords soon becomes tiresome, and his fussy embellishments in the da capo of the scherzo are curious, to say the least. The finale is too deliberate to communicate the music’s sense of hushed excitement, and it’s hard to understand the rationale behind the pauses Staier inserts between phrases. From an artist of his stature, this is something of a disappointment. Misha Donat