Schubert: Piano Sonata in B flat; Viola; Der Winterabend; Abschied von der Erde

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COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert: Ian Bostridge
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B flat; Viola; Der Winterabend; Abschied von der Erde
PERFORMER: Ian Bostridge, Leif Ove Andsnes
CATALOGUE NO: 557 9012

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The third volume of the Bostridge/ Andsnes Schubert project, pairing a late piano sonata with selected Lieder, is so enriching that benchmarking the D960 would be inappropriate here: the selected pieces tellingly play into each other such that the recital becomes a unique artefact.

Here is Schubert’s last Sonata face to face with the almost unbearably poignant late song, ‘Viola’: Ian Bostridge’s tenor is the very incarnation of the emblematic vernal innocence, ardour and premature obsequies of which it sings; and Leif Ove Andsnes brings to life the rondo-finale progress of the ballad’s piano accompaniment. And then, ‘Der Winterabend’ magicked into a dark Impromptu by the fingers of Andsnes and the dreaming, lyric grace of Bostridge’s singing.

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Finally, a curiosity: Bostridge as narrator, as the poet’s words are declaimed over the sighing triplets of Schubert’s farewell to the earth, in the ‘Abschied’. And the Sonata itself? Well, Andsnes stands up more than well to competition from Schubertians such as Alfred Brendel (Philips), András Schiff (Decca) and, more recently, Paul Lewis (Harmonia Mundi), with superbly clear voicing and thoughtful pacing of the heavenly lengths of the first movement; a daringly slow and blissfully unmannered slow movement; and a scherzo and finale which seek out the inner tension and angst at the heart of that eternally singing voice. Hilary Finch