Piano Sonata in A, D959; Allegretto in C minor, D915; Piano Sonata in A minor, D784
Eric Lu (piano)
Warner Classics 5419729812 80:03 mins
The opening movement of Schubert’s penultimate piano sonata, D959, is exquisitely shaped in this latest offering by Eric Lu, the impressive US pianist who won the 2018
Leeds International Piano Competition. Lu’s craftsmanship continues in the solemn Andantino, which he imbues with a chorale-like charm. Its tragic glamour goes far beyond that of any lieder – the miller’s woes seem almost mundane in comparison to these aching melodies.
The Sonata is one of three composed in 1828 and published posthumously a decade later. Like others, Lu describes the ‘journey’ heard in Schubert’s later works – ascribed to the composer’s diagnosis of the syphilis that would soon end his life – and draws out the associated narrative drama, particularly in the Rondo, with its surprising retrospection.
Rather than programme the Sonata alongside one of its companion late works, Lu opts for the 1823 Sonata in A minor, a brilliant pairing that opens the ears to Schubert’s earlier pianistic ambitions. The funereal opening Allegro is punctuated by a rumbling bass; Lu creates extreme contrasts with the pianissimo sections both here and in the Andante, where the recurring grace-note figure is perfectly pressed into the fabric of the music. A virtuosic final movement confirms Lu’s place among today’s Schubertians.
The deceptively complicated Allegretto in C minor (D915), composed in 1827, is presented as a palate cleanser between these two sonatas, its neatly shifting tonal centres representing a microcosm of the recital as a whole.