Schubert: Piano works

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ALBUM TITLE: Schubert Piano Sonatas
WORKS: Piano works
PERFORMER: Maria Joao Pires, Ricardo Castro
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5233
The idea is original: two pianists, each


offering a Schubert sonata, and then

combining in three of his greatest

works for piano duet. Few duos

match the refinement of Maria João

Pires and Ricardo Castro; and if you

see the F minor Fantasy primarily as

a work of elegiac resignation, their

fastidiously prepared performance

is as rewarding as any. For my taste,

though, they tend to smooth the

music’s contours, using an exquisite

but limited palette of colours and

dynamics, and softening the anguish

that other pianists, including Lupu

and Perahia (Sony) and Eschenbach

and Frantz (EMI), find in the music.

I enjoyed the other duet works with

fewer provisos. The opening of the

Allegro in the Lebensstürme may be

less tempestuous than some; but few

duos shape the major-keyed music

with such luminous grace. Pires and

Castro are in their element, too, in the

assuaging lyricism of the Rondo.

With her limpid textures, intense

singing line and sensitivity to

harmonic flux, Pires is almost ideal

in the genial A major Sonata. Only

the finale struck me as a touch dainty.

The relative disappointment here is

the bleak A minor Sonata of 1823.

For all its pianistic finish, Castro’s

interpretation is too generalised.

Fortissimos in the orchestrally textured

first movement have none of the

torrential force conjured by pianists

like Ashkenazy (Decca), Brendel

(Philips) or Richter (Olympia), while

in the Andante Castro, typically, fails

to vary his tone between the main

theme and the mysterious unison

interjections, marked ppp con sordino.

The set is certainly worth investigating

for the duos, and for Pires’s

performance of D664. Not, though,

for the notes, a ludicrous farrago

of poorly translated psychobabble.


Richard Wigmore