Schubert: Works for Solo Piano

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert: Works for Solo Piano
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B flat, D960; Du bist die Ruh, D776; Ungeduld, D795; Wanderer Fantasy, D760
PERFORMER: Barry Douglas (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10807

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On the evidence of this recording, the brilliant and extrovert Wanderer Fantasy is rather more suited to Barry Douglas’s artistic temperament than the largely relaxed late Sonata in B flat. Not that his performance of the latter is seriously disappointing: there’s a fine response to this music’s ebb and flow in the long first movement, and the scherzo and finale are no less imaginatively handled. Douglas takes the scherzo’s dark-hued trio, with its stabbing off-beat accents, a good deal slower than the remainder, and the result is undeniably effective. But what’s lacking at times in the opening pair of movements is the sense of intimacy and serenity that’s so essential to the music. Certainly, in the slow movement, there’s scope for a slight increase in pace for the middle section, where the key moves from minor to major, but it’s hard not to feel that Douglas’s basic tempo for the entire piece is too hurried to convey the full melancholy of the outer sections, or the luminous quality of the heart-rending switches in key – those uniquely Schubertian moments – during the final moments.

The Wanderer Fantasy, brilliantly played by Douglas, was a seminal influence on Liszt, who made a highly imaginative and convincing arrangement of it for piano and orchestra, and also appropriated its single-movement structure and cyclic thematic form for his own great Sonata in B minor. So while the two Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs Douglas includes are stylistically incongruous, their presence lends added interest to a largely successful recital.

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Misha Donat