Mozart, Schubert

COMPOSERS: Mozart,Schubert
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart, Schubert
WORKS: Mozart: Sonata in D for two pianos, K448; Shubert:Fantasy in F minor, D940; Andantino varié in B minor, D823
PERFORMER: Katia and Marielle Labèque (piano)
Schubert’s Andantino varié in B minor is the most intimate, and perhaps the most perfect, of all his many piano duet works. It’s actually the middle movement of a grandly conceived Divertissement on French themes, but it’s such a hauntingly beautiful piece that it has acquired a life of its own. Even so, it’s not nearly as well-known as the Fantasy in F minor – one of the products of the miraculous final year of Schubert’s life. Katia and Marielle Labèque find exactly the right tone for both these pieces. However, their performance of Mozart’s sparkling Sonata for two pianos K448 is another matter. Here, their unstable rhythm and fussy dynamics sound self-conscious; even more damaging is their interpretation of a notational convention of Mozart’s day – in which the initial note of a turn‑like figure was written separately from the three following notes – as though it were an ornament. Despite its appearance on the page, Mozart would surely have expected the note to be absorbed smoothly into the melodic line – just think of the famous and similarly notated ‘Turkish Rondo’. The same figure plays a crucial role in the two‑piano Sonata’s last two movements, but the Labèque sisters begin it each time with a ‘crushed’ note, producing an irregular rhythm that’s jarringly inelegant. Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu offer an irresistibly enjoyable performance, and their disc also contains a deeply felt account of the Schubert Fantasy.