Author Topic: Schubertiade!  (Read 40128 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #80 on: January 13, 2019, 07:38:01 AM »



When I think of Bengt Forsberg, I think accompanist, and then accompanist for Anne Sofie von Otter.  There's nothing wrong with being known as an accompanist.  I'm a big fan of Enrico Pace, and that's his bread and butter.  Here, Mr Forsberg gets the microphone all to himself on the aptly title Schubertiade disc.  The twenty-two year old recording uses a forty-one year old Bösendorfer, adding a bit of Viennese heft to the recording. 

The G Major sonata starts the disc.  The Molto moderato comes in at 18'37" with repeat, so a judicious tempo is used.  Forsberg's playing is steady, with little in the way of highly personalized rubato.  The somewhat clinically recorded Bösendorfer ends up stripping away some loveliness from the cantabile parts of the music, but the tangy upper registers tickle the ears, and when Forsberg pounds out the forte passages, there's some real oomph.  While the movement never really sounds unappealing, it never really sings, though.  Given that the first movement isn't ideally lyrical, it's not surprising that the Andante isn't either.  Neither does it surprise that Forsberg uses his piano to hammer out the loud passages with something nearing musical aggression.  There's certainly nothing wrong with hard-hitting Schubert, but it has to be done just so.  The Menuetto and concluding Allegretto both display the same traits as the first two movements, and as such don't rate with my favorites.

Forsberg moves to a single Impromptu, the first from D899, and it is characterized by sharp articulation and almost overbearing loud playing, with lyricism very much a secondary consideration.  The Moments Musicaux are characterized by the same traits mentioned previously, though Forsberg introduces a snazzy rhythmic sense to the playing, with the third of the lot especially effective in this regard.  While this doesn't end up a favorite rendition of the work, it's the best thing on the disc.

It's impossible to really fault Forsberg's playing itself, but his interpretations don't work for me. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #81 on: January 19, 2019, 07:28:55 AM »



[This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion thread]

Yoon Chung is yet another of the bevy of South Korean pianists whose work I've listened to in the last couple years, and like some other artists in The Asian Invasion thread, this sole disc of Schubert is his only commercial recording to date.  Chung was born in Korea but did most of his training in the UK, where he now lives.  He also did some studying in Dallas under Joaquín Achúcarro, and he's done the whole competition thing, too.  So, he's like a veritable army of young artists out there in possessing proper credentials.

The disc opens with D958.  Chung goes for a fairly straight-forward approach.  His tempi are sensible, his dynamics just fine, and his forcefulness in the first theme of the Allegro is vigorous but not overdone.  But in the second theme, Chung's individuality becomes more evident.  He seems more comfortable in the more melodic, introspective music, and he sees fit to add some noticeable dollops of rubato.  Sometimes he slows things down rather a lot, interrupting the forward momentum noticeably, but it ultimately works, as do his long pauses.  The Adagio takes the approach of the second theme of the Allegro and sort of magnifies the traits.  How well one responds to pauses and drawn out playing may very well determine how much one likes this movement.  It's well done, to be sure, and I do very much enjoy such an approach, but sometimes it might be too much of a good thing, especially in the drawn out coda.  That written, Chung tosses in some real oomph in the second theme of this movement, so it all works well enough.  The Menuetto is fairly conventional in approach, and then the closing Allegro opens with not a little drive, with Chung displaying rock steady left hand playing under the melodies.  His standard fast and slower than normal approach is repeated as warranted, and expected, throughout, though there's a greater sense of rhythmic bounce and energy.  So, a very well played version, but not a favorite, even in The Asian Invasion thread - that would be Ran Jia.  (Which reminds me, when will she record something else?)

Next is D946, a work that seems to benefit more from more interventionist takes.  (Listen, for example, to Sokolov or Kars.)  Chung launches into the Allegro assai with ample energy and drive, but it's when the slow music arrives that he seems to be in his element.  Backing off to a Karsesque tempo, and adopting a very earnest mien, though the runs are little delights, Chung revels in the music.  That written, it lacks the otherworldly magic of Kars or the refinement of Sokolov.  (The comparisons were not selected at random.)  In the Allegretto, Chung adopts more extreme tempos at both ends of the spectrum, to mixed effect - the slow playing really comes way too close to being way too slow - but the cumulative effect is to sort of render the first two movements a nearly half-hour long fantasy.  Cool.  The Allegro does the fast-slow thing, too, though here the slow movement is a bit quicker and played with an attractive, gently punched out staccato style that emphasizes rhythm and fun.  The whole thing comes off a bit better than the sonata.

So, neither work rates among my favorite versions of what's out there, but Chung is not at all reticent about imparting his ideas to music.  I would not be averse to hearing him in something else.  Liszt or Szymanowski may sound just nifty.

Chung owns the copyright in this recording, so one can access it free online.  Mr Chung and his production team were smart enough to hire Tony Faulkner as engineer, so sound is superb, so I'm glad I got the disc instead of relying on streaming.
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Offline hvbias

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #82 on: January 19, 2019, 09:45:41 AM »


I have greatly been enjoying this box as well; it's not Richter or Sokolov Schubert, and more classical interpretations but that is A ok with me.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2019, 10:30:01 AM by staxomega »

Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #83 on: January 26, 2019, 08:06:28 AM »



Severin von Eckardstein is a name new to me.  The German born pianist pursued studies at high grade institutions and did the competition thing, culminating in a win at the 2003 Queen Elizabeth competition.  So, he's at least competition grade.  This disc of two Schubert works came to my attention when I found it on the cheap.  Could it be the find of the century?

The disc opens with D840.  Eckardstein generally keeps the sonata lighter and more playful than is often the case.  He also keeps the music moving forward in the Moderato.  While not rushed, there's an energy level that approaches, but does not achieve, a sort of jitteriness.  Eckardstein's articulation is generally very fine, and while often the playing is focused on the melodic content - without ever coming close to sounding too soft or cloy -  his Schimmel piano and the recording technique allow for the bass line to sort of creep up on the listener in a few spots.  The piano's bright, crisp upper registers also become prominent a couple time, to ear catching effect.  In the Andante, Eckardstein doesn't really let the music flow, instead emphasizing staccato playing and dynamic contrasts.  A few times, the comparative lack of suitable musical flow does detract a bit, but at others there's an entirely unsentimental feel that appeals.  The movement and sonata is something of a mixed bag.

D959 follows.  The potent bass notes stand out in the Allegro, which is mostly of the forward moving, assertive variety.  While Eckardstein doesn't skimp entirely on lyricism, it seems something of a secondary focus.  The near-jittery style from D840 reappears, too, making this more assertive than many other versions.  Just an observation.  Eckardstein makes the Andantino the center of the work.  Forlorn and at times spare, the playing is lovely and restrained much of the time, but the restraint masks something beneath the surface, something that erupts in short bursts throughout.  The rolled chords near the coda take on extra significance here.  The Scherzo is punchy and near-jittery in the outer sections and more lyrical in the middle.  It's quite nice, if not "late" Schubert profound in a more standard sense.  The Rondo does find Eckardstein delivering some more purely beautiful melodic playing, with more potent playing less common, though the passage before the coda and coda itself have some belted out music.  Overall, this sonata is not one of the great recordings, but there's enough there to return to again.

In perusing the pianist's recordings, it looks like he does some standard fare, some lesser fare, and some modern fare.  I'm thinking the last category might be worth exploring.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #84 on: January 26, 2019, 08:41:30 AM »
840 is one of the sonatas I'm slightly curious about, so I know this recording by Severin von Eckardstein. The incisive phrasing seems to me the most salient feature of the performance. I wouldn't have chosen playful(er) or light(er) as epithets -- but so often with me how I interpret the performance depends somewhat on my mood when I'm listening. The way the andante is slightly static seems to me quite interesting in fact, as I have a little theory that Schubert was exploring stasis -- that's why I've explored this sonata a bit.

Shame he didn't play the third movement, and I'd have even liked the 4th. There can be no reason for not playing the menuetto can there? Is there a problem in the manuscript or something.

I can't remember a thing about the 959, I don't like the piano sound at all, it seems horribly hard and the tones too pure and free of interesting partials to be musical. He has his own reasons for choosing such an instrument for this music I guess.  I can imagine he does some "belting out" -- he's that sort of musician.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2019, 08:49:08 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #85 on: January 26, 2019, 10:05:37 AM »
There seem to be many recordings of D 840 including only the first two movements, e.g. Brendel, R. Serkin or P. Lewis.

have you heard Kontarsky and Pludermacher with fragmentary 4 mvmt and completed versions, respectively?

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #86 on: January 26, 2019, 11:31:17 AM »
I don't think so, I'm pretty curious about the Kontarsky. My current favourite in the sonata is Massimiliano Damerini.

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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #87 on: February 02, 2019, 07:37:51 AM »


[This will be cross-posted in the The Asian Invasion thread]

I got tired of waiting around for some record company to issue a new Ran Jia recording, so I decided to revisit her Schubert with her first commercial recording of two sonatas, here the always successful pairing of D960 and D664.  This time around, I had to go the download route since physical media was impossible to find.  The download I got happens to be of the 24 bit variety, which appears to be the only format available for purchase.

Jia starts off with D960, and her Molto moderato is of the long, slow variety, coming in at just a hair over twenty minutes.  One really wouldn't sense that initially as she plays with a steady pulse and keeps it up throughout.  As in her later disc, her style has little time for sentiment or contemplation.  It is harder hitting, though at times even more beautiful than what one hears on the RCA disc.  What is also clear is that Jia likes to make the lower register thunder, whether in the bass trills or in passages with more lower register playing.  Too, she doesn't limit her hard hitting playing to just the lower registers; forte sections have steel in them, and hints of anger more than despair.  Her anodized aluminum in comfy suede gloves style is evident in this recording.  The anger, the bite, the tension that pervades the movement makes it seem to go by more quickly than it does, even if it's not deep.  A few times, Jia's delivery of some right hand passages, including some arpeggios near the end, are especially ear-catching.  Jia pulls off much the same trick in the Andante sostenuto, which manages to sound a bit rushed while still coming it at over ten minutes.  That is down solely to the tension in the playing.  Again, it's not the deepest or most affecting take, but it works better than it should.  Jia moves right through the Scherzo at a brisk sounding pulse, with ample drive and dynamic contrast and she ends the sonata with an Allegro ma non troppo that, like Zimerman after her but to a lesser extent than the more famous pianist, uses clipped G-naturals.  She also pokes out some of the bass notes underneath the melodies to good effect, and grinds out the more intense passages most effectively.  So, not one of the very best readings available, but very much in line with her RCA recording and very well worth hearing.

In D664, Jia shows that she can plays just about as beautifully as anyone as she produces a stream of musical gorgeousness for much of the movement.  She can still unload, though, and the loud passages seem better suited to D784, though Jia plays them nicely.  One thing that sort of stuck out more than normal is how the coda sounds, or can sound, very much like Beethoven, while the rest of the movement sounds very Schubertian.  In the Andante, Jia plays with more feeling and depth than is typical in her style.  It's far from sentimental, but she lavishes very nuanced attention on the notes, creating something and dramatic, but not overstated.  The Allegro is spritely and delivered with a bouncy rhythm in the mix with Jia's standard, hard-hitting playing.  Overall, I tend to prefer a more lyrical approach, but Jia makes a strong case for her approach.

Her case is so strong that I now hope another disc gets released soon, on whatever label.

Sound quality is top shelf, but somewhat close, with a fair amount of damper mechanism noise.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #88 on: February 09, 2019, 07:34:47 AM »



Jorge Bolet is one of the grand old pianists who recorded a fair amount and did generally good or excellent work.  His late-career Decca Liszt recordings demonstrate his affinity for the composer and are quite nice.  Better are his RCA and Ensayo recordings, which were issued in an RCA box for a brief time, where Bolet plays with more fire and brilliance.  I wasn't really looking for anything from him, but when this reissue of his late-career Decca Schubert popped up for next to nothing, I decided to give it a shot. 

The disc opens with D959.  Bolet starts with an Allegro characterized by steady and stately tempo, reserve, and some very clear playing that simultaneously sounds a bit chunky and excessively sober.  The Andantino is broad of tempo and both somber and lyrical, but the reserve hampers it.  Bolet's Scherzo is too stiff and chunky in the outer sections, though the trio is quite fine.  Things end well enough with a Rondo that glides along with an attractive if reserved lyricism.  So, a decent reading.

D784 closes the disc, and Bolet displays the same traits.  The reserve remains, and the somewhat chunky sound turns stiff here, and when combined with curiously limited dynamics, yields an anemic Allegro, robbed of drama.  The Andante is generally nice, and the Allegro vivace manages to be both appealing in its way, but it's also more Andante than Allegro.  It's too slow and enervated, and the lack of dynamic contrasts renders a less than fully satisfying ending.

Less than fully satisfying is the best way to describe the disc as a whole.  Rarely has the word "meh" been as useful when assessing this disc.  I'm glad I got it cheap.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #89 on: February 16, 2019, 07:36:03 AM »



Ending the latest batch of Schubert recordings with the one I've owned the longest.  I'm a big fan of Alexander Lonquich, so I was predisposed to like this set.  I also happen to like his older Schubert recordings that I've listened to via YouTube, so all signs pointed to a fine twofer.  Lonquich handily exceeded expectations and delivered one of my purchases of 2018.  I decided, after multiple most enjoyable listens, to scribble about it.

I generally cover pieces as they are presented on disc, but here I'm starting with highest highlight of the set, one of the greatest recordings of D959 I've heard.  Possibly the greatest.  Lonquich starts with loud and powerful forte chords, which also sound broad of tempo and large of scale.  He brings the movement in at 17'50", so energized, speedy drama is not what the playing is all about.  It's more about clean articulation, supreme clarity, wide-ranging dynamics, with incredibly fine differentiation at all levels - why shouldn't p have at least ten fluidly variably levels?  It's also about a second theme that while highly lyrical, sort of sounds deconstructed, a gorgeous and searching musical breakdown of each and every constituent part.  Lonquich, as in all his recordings, plays with strongly individual ideas.  He doesn't hold back on personal rubato or accents, not at all.  Indeed, he weaves them seamlessly into the musical fabric throughout.  Nary a bar goes by without him inserting his personality.  The playing is beautiful or fierce (or an approximation of fierce) where it should be.  The Andantino starts off daringly slow, with Lonquich playing the melody in a largely jagged staccato style, especially with the right hand.  The awesome clarity sounds awesomer when he obviously desynchronizes the hands, with continuous, miniature melodic blocks the occasional result.  Lonquich fires things up in the middle section, thundering out playing.  The end of the section and transition again slows things down, with dynamic and tempo reductions that heighten the drama that preceded it.  The repeat of the first theme is a bit quicker and more forlorn than the first presentation of the material.  Nice.  The Scherzo continues on an intriguing mix of jagged playing and lyricism that works quite well.  The middle section is especially effective in its striking dynamic shifts.  In the Rondo, Lonquich plays with a more unaffected lyricism, though he can't help from deploying rubato and personal (micro-) tweaks to note values here, there, and everywhere.  The movement sounds generally lighter in tone and more fluid than the rest of the sonata.  That's not to write that he neglects intensity in the middle section, because he plays with ample oomph.  While I very often prefer my Schubert on the more purely lyrical side overall, with shades of darkness pervading the late sonatas, in particular, Lonquich's approach is unique and backed by exceptionally fine playing.  There are, of course, many fine recordings of this work, but I don't know if I can say any are better.  I would be tempted to say this is a potential long-term reference for modern, SOTA sound sets, but Arcadi Volodos is out there, performing this very sonata.  If he lays down a studio version, it may set a new and different standard.  Until that day hopefully arrives (hopefully very soon), this will be my go-to for current versions.

Moving back to D958, Lonquich launches the opening Allegro with potent, quasi-mini-orchestral chords and a perfectly judged tempo, evoking a bit of drive and oomph.  It's entirely and eminently satisfying.  But it's the slow second theme and the transitions where the magic happens.  Yes, there may be even better executed scales out there, though I can't think of any.  This is how to transition.  And then the slow music is very slow, filled with micro-pauses and personal note value changes, and replete with so many dynamic gradations that one almost wants to measure them.  (Really, the mezzo-piano to mezzo-forte range is superbly rendered, with even shadings shaded.)  None of this would really matter much if it were not for the lyrical and tonal beauty married to an almost fantastic sound world.  It is entirely possible to find the playing too mannered, but mannerism makes the music here.   The Adagio ends up mixing a slow, somber, contemplative sound with passages of no little intensity.  A neat little trick that Lonquich uses involves desynchronizing hands when playing some ascending volume sforzandi.  It lends a certain controlled frenzy feel to things.  Lonquich's almost crazy clarity also lends a simultaneously controlled and unmoored feel to the music.  The Menuetto might almost be considered too mannered.  The outer Allegro sections are just nifty in terms of energy and drive, but the trio is laden with so much rubato that some might find it distracting.  That written, the terraced dynamics between left and right hand, and that awesome clarity, offer unique rewards all their own.  The Allegro possesses more forward drive and rhythmic snap than the preceding movement, but what continues to stand out is the clarity and the dynamic control.  Here, it's the swelling fortes, anchored by beefy but pristine left hand playing, that really catch the ear, at least until some of the gentle quiet right hand playing manages to dominate, despite its gentleness.  The playing doesn't flow in the best, most lyrical way, but it doesn't matter a whit.

In D960, Lonquich goes for the super-long Molto moderato approach, taking just shy of twenty-four minutes to finish it.  He keeps the pulse pretty steady, though he can't help but throw in personal rubato and occasionally, and most effectively, accent certain bass notes.  The bass trills are nearly exaggerated, and some silences and note values most definitely are; those who dislike agogics for interpretive effect will find much to dislike.  Me, I like, especially if it's well done.  That written, the movement often seems to lack a core, or to possess the emotional weight of some readings; it often seems to be abount momentary effect.  Typically, I prefer dark 'n' dismal takes on the sonata, with a first movement weighting, but in some instances, as here, that doesn't matter as much.  It matters much less when the Andante becomes the center of the work, as it most certainly does in this recording.  Again, Lonquich does not go for a particularly fluid, lyrical style in the outer sections, instead relying on agogics and rubato to create a dark, introspective soundworld, made the more so when he plays softly.  It's really quite masterful.  The middle section stays on the slow side, but the insistent left hand playing and darkly tuneful right hand playing offers a contrast from the music before and after.  And in the return of the opening material, Lonquich adds some additional dynamic contrast, this time more on the louder end, to super dramatic effect.  He opens the Scherzo lightly and gently, and rapidly increases volume and tension to just right levels, and closes with a nearly conventional Allegro ma non troppo.  He still finds time to vary dynamics nicely, especially on the pianissimo to piano end of the spectrum, and he plays with more rhythmic steadiness much of the time.  The playing is largely shorn of emotional baggage, as is delivered most handsomely. 

The twofer ends with D946.  Lonquich changes approaches here, going for a straight-forward quick, potent opening before backing way off for a slow, darker middle section, which is prone to some nicely timed and perfectly executed forte outbursts.  The transition back to the first theme is masterful, almost to a Karsian level.  Quasi-Karsian is the slow second piece.  Lonquich does play with admirable tonal refinement, as well as some more nicely accented bass notes, but it's earthbound compared to Kars.  When compared to most other pianists, Lonquich's take is extra-spiffy, though.  Relatively best of all is the third piece.  Smaller and shorter than its predecessors, in many full sets, it seems like a lesser composition, but Lonquich lavishes the same attention on all aspects of the playing, making sure to hammer out the middle section to great effect. 

Alexander Lonquich is one of those pianists I just seem to enjoy all the more for his individual, idiosyncratic interpretations, backed up by stellar playing.  This latest Schubert twofer does not disappoint.  Now, if only Warner will see fit to reissue his 90s recordings in a handy-dandy box one day.
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Offline MickeyBoy

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #90 on: February 16, 2019, 03:02:35 PM »
Thanks for the great review. I admire Lonquich as well. I ordered the disk from Amazon. Looking it up again for a link in an email I came across Subyshare, which claims to give us the music in high-res. The link is here:

https://subyshare.com/hmhzzedxjily/AlexanderL0nquichSchubert182820182496.part1.rar.html

It seems like a complete pirate site full of malware. Does anyone know what isw going on?
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #91 on: April 27, 2019, 04:36:23 AM »



Time for another new to me pianist.  Russian Georgy Tchaidze has the educational and competition background one rather expects nowadays, and I was able to pick up a couple of his discs for a pittance.  One was this all-Schubert recital.  Certainly, one can hear Mr Tchaidze's highly developed technique and ability starting with D664, which sounds suitably lyrical and tonally attractive, and one can detect hints of harder hitting Schubert, which certainly come to the fore in the later works.  One needn't wait until the opening bar of D946 to hear the harder-hitting, speedier Schubert.  Tchaidze flies through the outer sections of the first movement, playing with energy and rhythmic bounce, and some lyricism, but it sound like surface treatment.  The Andante is played in much slower, more somber fashion, with dramatic pauses, or rather, pauses meant to sound more dramatic than they do.  The Allegretto is played fast, but not too fast, and sounds almost relentless in its forward drive.  Ditto the Allegro.  Probably more so.  Not surprisingly, the Wanderer Fantasie ends up being a fast 'n' furious sort of take, and the pianist doesn't skimp on scale.  It's a bracing if not particularly deep take.  The D935 Allegretto closes out the disc, and it's more or less in line with what came before.  Tchaidze can certainly play, and the recital is nice, but it's not something I've not heard before. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #92 on: May 04, 2019, 06:11:55 AM »



From the Anne Queffélec big box, two discs' worth of four hands music with Imogen Cooper lending a hand.  Well, two in this instance.  The twofer starts with the F minor Fantasia, D940.  Queffélec and Cooper play the piece smartly.  With a heavy emphasis on both melody and clarity, the slightly small-scaled conception cruises along.  While small-scaled may seem something of a negative description, it is not meant to be, for so in tune with each other are the two pianists, that some of the highlights occur when they delve into the quieter sections.  The recurring main theme is likewise well handled, and the Scherzo is spritely.  Nice.  The Allegro, D947 is similarly scaled, but offers more contrast.  The duo belt out the opening material in nicely stormy fashion, but back off to a very dreamy, at times Beethoven-y second theme.  There's also some plain old spunky playing interspersed with the stormier music.  The Six Polonaises, D824, all have a nice combination of melodic loveliness and rhythmic verve, with the third especially nice.  The Variations on an Original Theme, D813 is appealing and somewhat thick of texture.  An original theme it may be, but Beethoven's 7th makes an appearance in the fifth variation. 

The second disc opens with the Grand Duo, D812.  The mammoth scale of the piece and the sometimes heavy going mean that I rarely listen to this work.  While Queffélec and Cooper dispense with some of the heaviness, they do not make me think that the piece couldn't use some trimming.  That written, they do manage to make the piece seem to go by a bit quicker than normal.  While not actually an unscored symphony, the piece certainly has gestures not always found in keyboard works, and the duo are able to bring out multiple voices at once, keeping multiple lines going in the Allegro moderato.  The Andante offers more chances for Schubertian lyricism, but the proto-Lisztian scale prevents that from happening.  Having four hands rather than two makes the Scherzo sound most enjoyable, in what sounds like a cousin to the String Quintet.  While everything to this point sounds fine, it's the Finale where the duo, and the music, come alive, with more drive and energy and fun.  This work will never be a favorite for me, but Queffélec and Cooper do fine work.  Things get back to more standard Schubertian goodness in the following Rondo D951, with weight married to lyricism in perfect proportion, and small hints of Beethoven influence weaved in nicely.  The Three Marches militaires, D733 come off well, all vibrant energy and march-like rhythm.  Slight but fun.  Fortunately, things conclude with the Andantino and Variations D823.  Short and lovely, tuneful and dark-ish, this new to me work really hits the spot.  This is some serious Schubert.  I think it only makes sense to try another version.  I mean, there is that newest reissue of Tal & Groethuysen covering all of Schubert's four hand works.  Hmm.  Anyway, these two discs offer a delightful, meaty chunk of music in the middle of the Queffélec big box.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #93 on: May 11, 2019, 03:08:42 AM »



I've finally found HIP Schubert to live with.  András Schiff's first ECM Schubert twofer offered the best HIP Schubert I'd heard.  This twofer continues offers more of the same.  Indeed, it starts off relatively stronger with what must surely count as one of the greatest recordings of the D899 Impromptus I've yet heard.  It may well be the best.  And it all comes down to the instrument.  In terms of tempo, rubato, agogics, etc, Schiff doesn't do anything outlandish.  What he does is offer a very highly refined take on the pieces, and he displays a satisfyingly wide dynamic range.  But it is the decay characteristics of the instrument that really makes the piece.  The playing is often as lyrical as all get out, but the quick decay, and the ability to play even softer than on a modern grand bring the pieces into intimate focus.  One listens to the first piece and thinks it can't get any better, and then one hears the opening scales of the second, and one understands it can.  And the more primitive mechanism allows Schiff to cruise along, playing at steady volume, and then drop everything all at once.  It's a little detail, but a massive one at the same time.  Schiff's older fingers betray no sign of decrepitude, either, as he plays with lightness and clarity.   The third piece is simply sublime, with the quick decay not detracting an iota from the right hand playing, and lending an incisiveness to the left hand playing that typically comes with overpowering volume, but not here.  The tone of the lower registers is novel, and more diverse than a Steinway.  Once doesn't miss the added power here.  Nor does one miss it in the concluding Allegretto, which is perfectly scaled for a small venue, and offers wide ranging dynamics, in a micro-sense, that generates a sense of theater.  This is standard-setting stuff.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the D958 sonata that follows doesn't reach the same heights.  Do not take that to mean that Schiff whiffs, because rather than setting a standard, he merely matches a world-class one.  Schiff again demonstrates than when he is so inclined, he can make his instrument produce satisfying volume levels as the Allegro opens with a suitably powerful sound, and then Schiff plays the movement with ample drive and intensity.  The quick decays makes the playing sound even faster, and the wide tonal variation adds color that modern instruments don't.  As the movement reaches the middle, Schiff again delivers some truly ear-opening playing, again centered around the left hand playing, but he also creates an austere yet melodic sound with his right hand playing.  The Adagio, played at a tempo that allows for not a little tension to remain, is also characterized by nearly volcanic, or as volcanic as a fortepiano cane play, climaxes.  Schiff keeps the melodies flowing when he should, but the interpretation is elevated from his accomplished modern grand reading.  The Menuetto is fairly stormy in the outer sections, but lighter in the middle, and the Allegro ratchets up the tension and intensity.  Schiff pushes forward with a relentlessness that is masked only slightly by the instrument.  Schiff also drops in some upper register notes that are almost ridiculously soft in the midst of the turmoil, and they remain perfectly audible.  Nice.  Disc one of the twofer sets a real high bar, no doubt. 

Disc two fortunately sounds just as swell.  The Drei Klavierstücke D946 starts things off.  Schiff opts for a perfectly sensible overall tempo, neither overly rushed or sluggishly slow, in the outer sections.  He does opt for an ever so slightly fast approach in the slower music, but only when playing notes, because he makes expert use of some sustains and all pauses.  Again, he uses the decay characteristics of his instruments most effectively.  And those right hand runs!  They are almost as ear-opening as the playing in D899.  That would have been good enough, but in the Allegretto, that almost preposterously fine micro-dynamic gradation that first popped up in D899 reappears right at the outset.  Schiff also deploys the various mechanisms of his instrument to good effect, doing the full keyboard dynamic shift, and if the playing doesn't assume the depths that some other pianists strive for and obtain (basically, Jean-Rodolphe Kars or Kun Woo Paik), the result sounds satisfactorily probing, especially for an intimate public setting.  (This is true Schubertiade playing.)  Schiff opens the concluding Allegro in somewhat stilted, stiff fashion, obviously on purpose, and somehow he makes it incredibly effective.  Part of the success is due to the fact that the piece ends up accelerating, with the notes flowing more as expected.  Knowing he has a winning approach, Schiff does the same thing again. 

D959 wraps things up.  Schiff works his magic again.  The Allegro starts off strong enough, but it only really packs a wallop after building up steam.  The almost improperly clear playing, with great tonal and dynamic differentiation in the accompaniment, really bring out the different voices and lend intellectualized drama to the playing.  And again, the quick decays render some of the melodies uncommonly distinctive.  Portions of the development are tastily testy, more than one might hope going in.  Schiff then demonstrates that his instrument can do violent and stormy in the middle section of the Andantino, and that purposely slow, chunky approach starts off the Scherzo.  (I guess one could call it a mannerism the second time around.)  That stupid-good right hand playing all reappears.  As beautiful as a modern grand sounds, it can sound cumbersome compared to what gets conjured here. The Rondo takes on a comparatively relaxed feel, and more overtly lyrical sound, in the outer sections, and gentler and sweeter in the middle section, as if a struggle of some sort has ended.  And one gets to hear just how long a note can sustain at the end, which is a longer than expected time.  Really, it's an exceptional interpretation.

I don't know if Schiff intends to record all of Schubert's piano works on a HIP instruments.  I do know he should.  Whatever happens, this twofer combined with the prior twofer represent HIP keyboard playing of the highest possible order, up there with PBS' LvB. 

Perfect sonics.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #94 on: May 18, 2019, 03:50:00 AM »


This ain't my first go-round with Janina Fialkowska's Schubert.  I have her D664/D894 disc, and if not my favorite for either work, Ms Fialkowska most definitely knows her business.  So, when I found this disc for less than four bucks, it was obvious it would be stupid not to buy it.

The disc opens with D568, and one needn't wait long to be reminded that Ms Fialkowska is no wallflower pianist.  While never sounding strident, sweet lyricism is not her way.  Clean articulation, zippy tempi, springy rhythm, and a bit of oomph characterize her work.  The opening Allegro sounds immoderate, but that's quite fine, because the rhythmic component, especially, gets its due.  And the brightness of the playing really tickles the ear.  Mm-hmm.  The Andante molto finds Fialkowska slowing down as appropriate, but she also maintains more than a bit of tension in some sections, lending a sense of jitteriness to some of the music.  To be sure, some of the music sounds slow, contemplative and lovely, but the overall result remains unsentimental Schubert.  The Menuetto sounds a bit taut, but does not flow like some other versions, but that's quite alright since the tradeoff is a bit of clarity.  Fialkowska keeps the Allegro moderato closer snappy and forward-moving for a brisk, refreshing ending. 

Moving to the D935 Impromptus, Fialkowska keeps the same crisp, bright, unsentimental style.  In the first piece, unending lyricism gives way to patches of beautiful lyricism and segments of something harder driven.  Her playing before the final pages does actually take on the "heavenly lengths" style, as music just sort of unfurls beautifully.  Not as beautifully as in the A-flat major Impromptu.  Fialkowska maintains a proper, steady, slow tempo, and alternates between passages of forlorn beauty and outbursts with bite.  A calmness also pervades some of the slower playing.  The middle section merges taut delivery, wide ranging dynamics, and lyricism just so.  This may very well be my favorite Schubert Impromptu, and Fialkowska delivers a corker.  In the B-flat major, Fialkowska delivers a fairly standard approach, with much focus on melodic attractiveness and sprightliness, except for the slightly stormier middle section, where some ivory walloping gets added to the mix.  Very nice.  Also very nice is the vibrant and snappy F Minor.  The only drawback is that the playing becomes just a smidge congested, though that is more an artifact of recording than a concern I would have in real life.

So, Ms Fialkowska delivers a fine disc, peaking pretty darned high with the A-Flat Major Impromptu.

ATMA, per usual, delivers superb sonics.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #95 on: May 25, 2019, 04:25:45 AM »



A second stab at HIP Schubert lieder.  This time, thanks to the DHM long box, it's standard fare in the form of Schubert's second greatest song cycle, Winterreise.  Up to this point, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has loomed large in my listening experience, what with his 371 recorded versions.  I have several, with pianists Moore, Demus, and Pollini, with the DFD/Moore pairing more or less the baseline version.  I've also got Bostridge/Andsnes, Schreier/Schiff, and the great Christine Schäfer paired with Eric Schneider for something different.  Well now, I get bass Michael Schopper paired with HIP keyboardist of note Andreas Staier to mix things up.  I don't recall hearing Schopper until this disc, and his voice is well controlled and mellifluous, and a bit light for a bass.  No Wotan he.  His diction seems clean, his singing decidedly unhistrionic when compared to DFD, and a certain coolness blends in with the often crisp singing.  The crisp singing is mirrored by the crisp playing, with Staier using his nice enough sounding instrument to lend perfect support.  To be sure, the voice dominates, which is fine.  Schopper likes to often start soft and build up quickly in a single note when starting a word, and he adds discreet vibrato here and there, but the cool style makes for a cool cycle that moves towards its perhaps not ideally dramatic ending.  Sure, there's a bit of gloom, but here's where DFD's approach pays off most.  I gotta admit, while fortepiano can really work in Schubert, as András Schiff demonstrates, when it comes to lied, I really want a modern grand and its sustain and its ability to create a seamless legato sound.  Staier plays very well, which is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east, so it's really just a personal preference, which I freely admit.  There are no substantive beefs with the recording then, it's just that I think I'll stick with modern grands and other singers.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #96 on: June 01, 2019, 05:01:04 AM »



In this batch, I've heard D899 and D935 delivered by two different pianists, and now I get to listen to one pianist run through all of them.  This time, it's the well known to me François Chaplin, he of the very good if not standard setting Debussy, Chopin, and Scriabin. 

D899 starts off pretty much as one might expect.  Chaplin takes a reasonable tempo in the C Minor, plays with more than adequate tonal beauty, throws in a bit of weight - but not too much - in louder passages, and everything sound just fine.  Same with the E Flat though hear one hears the tradeoff between Schiff instrument and a modern Steinway.  The modern piano is brighter and cleaner and the legato is more flowing, with (macro-) dynamic variation more pronounced, as one expects.  The right hand scales sound just dandy.  Chaplin really does deliver some fine playing, but there's just something qualitatively different here.  It's unfair, but oh well.  The G Flat is fairly straight forward in approach, but in the A Flat, Chaplin kicks things up a notch, playing with a bit of speed, nicely contrasted dynamics, and fine articulation in the outer sections, and a bit of hard-ish hitting fantasia like playing in the middle section.  Really, it's quite excellent, and the set as a whole is quite good, but Schiff squishes him.

In D935, Chaplin is similar to Fialkowska in terms of overall quality, but the playing sounds fuller and more focused on melody than rhythm.  This is obvious in the F Minor, but even more so in the A Flat, though here Chaplin never really lets up on tension, which remains throughout, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, not at all.  In the B flat, Chaplin plays the main melody as beautiful as all get out, and in the F Minor, Chaplin ups the rhythmic ante, and delivers a solid closer.  As a little encore, the Schubert/Liszt Litanei is included, and sounds just swell.

So, very nice overall.  Among Chaplin's efforts I've heard, I'd say his Chopin Nocturnes are probably tops, but this disc is very fine and shows that the pianist has range.

Superb sound.   
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #97 on: June 09, 2019, 06:14:04 AM »



While Andrea Lucchesini could certainly be included in The Italian Invasion, I've long considered him one of the best pianists of the day, so I will just post in this Schubert thread. 

The recording opens with D959.  Lucchesini launches with potent forte playing of a very slightly swift tempo, but he just as swiftly falls back in tempo and volume and proceeds to play with no little lyricism and tonal beauty, though not as much as in his earlier recording of the Impromptus.  As the music moves back and forth, these two traits repeat.  And a certain hardness creeps in during the loud passages, though not anywhere near enough to detract from enjoyment.  Indeed, just a bit of bite works nicely.  One of the things that makes Lucchesini's Impromptus recording so good is his ability to play slow music with great beauty, solemnity, and, when needed, steadiness, and here he delivers in all regards in the outer sections of the Andantino, which sound just marvelous, comparable to any version.  He then ramps up intensity in the middle section, building up to a potent climax.  And the rolled chords of the coda sound just right.  Oh yeah.  The Scherzo offers a light, jocular, peppy contrast.  The final movement expertly moves back and forth between outright lyricism and lyricism married to tension.  I will say that Schiff's recent recording is even more to my liking, but this most definitely is very much to my liking.

And of course there's more.  D537 follows.  Lucchesini plays it big. There's a sort of Wanderer Fantasie scale to it, and the way he weights repeated arpeggios in the opening Allegro ma non troppo is ear catching without sounding obtrusive or obvious.  The Allegretto quasi andantino comes off even better.  Lighter and more lyrical, Lucchesini plays with variable, dance-y rhythm, and ample Lucchesinian tone.  He really elevates the movement, emphasizing its direct relationship to D959, making it sound more like "late" Schubert than it often does, establishing new qualitative standards as he goes.  The Allegro vivace ends the piece more strongly than normal.  Lucchesini doesn't do anything outlandish or too attention grabbing, but the sum effect of his little touches is to elevate the movement and entire sonata into something altogether more substantive than normal.  And it sounds artistically effortless, to boot.  He pulls off a similar trick with the D915 Allegretto, which acts as a superb closer.

Before buying, I figured this release would be a purchase of the year.  It is.

Sound for the 24/96 download is near SOTA.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #98 on: June 09, 2019, 10:27:33 PM »
I’d forgotten about that release! Anyway I just listened to the first movement of 959 and I felt that Lucchesini captures something which don’t recall noticing in other performances: a sense of being stuck, of being trapped, making false starts but arriving nowhere. I’ll try to listen to the rest of the sonata later.

I quite enjoyed it I fact - or rather, I enjoyed meeting a new way of understanding the music. 
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Offline Todd

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Re: Schubertiade!
« Reply #99 on: October 19, 2019, 07:10:39 AM »



Francesco Piemontesi first entered my musical consciousness when I heard him play a Mozart concerto in person.  So fine was his playing that I quickly picked up his very fine Debussy, but then it a took a while for me to pick up a couple other things from him.  It didn't seem to matter much, because he was releasing new recordings at a moderate clip.  Then, recently, he started recording more.  There were the first two years of Liszt's Annees in short order, and now there's this set of Schubert's last three sonatas.  What's more, the newer recordings are all available as moderately priced high res downloads, so there's no hunting around the various Amazons or what not to get a copy.  Just download and go.  Which is what I did here.

Piemontesi opens D958 with an Allegro of just about the right tempo - not too fast, and definitely not too slow - and plenty of rich hued drama.  Is the playing the most powerful forte I've heard?  Nope.  But it sure sounds good.  The left hand playing, while never overbearing, sounds insistent, relentless always pushing the music forward, and the melodies, oh my, they sound lovely, even in the agitated music.  The second theme, though, is where true magic happens, as Piemontesi settles down and plays some heavenly sounding music.  He then alternates between the themes most deftly.  The Adagio effectively inverts the sound and approach, going mostly slow and achingly beautiful, with punchier sections included.  The Menuetto is tense and taut in the outer sections, with tasty accenting and beautiful playing, with an even more lovely trio.  The concluding Allegro, taken at a sensible overall pace, starts off all potent energy and snappy, exaggerated dance rhythms.  The second theme is charming and sunny and pure aural pleasantness.  There's a sense of spontaneity and joy in the mix.  And man, the right hand playing sounds sweet in places.  A blockbuster D958.

D959 starts with an Allegro seemingly more like the opening of D958 than normal, with everything refined and enhanced.  The forte playing has more heft and edge, though not quite bite, and close to the most perfectly sculpted sforzandi imaginable.  (Yes, scuplted.)  And that incredibly sweet, beautiful right hand playing reappears in various spots, and the subdued, tapered, extended coda is something else.  The Andantino starts slow and somber and lovely, the simultaneously bright and colorful upper register tone ringing out with more than touches of melancholy.  As the playing continues on, the perfectly controlled slow tempo lends a hypnotic air to the proceedings.  The middle section finds Piemontesi slowing down and playing with deliberation and some heft, and then as the music transitions back to the opening material, he plays an accelerated left hand trill that is like an extra-tense, jittery version of what one hears in the opening movement of D960.  The Scherzo reverses the musical sounds of the inner and outer sections, and while Piemontesi plays with ample rhythmic snap in the outer sections, it is the heavenly middle section that beguiles.  The concluding Rondo starts off as a stream of melody, and more or less stays that way until the development, which offers what might possibly be the only complaint to this point.  The playing takes on a very slightly stiff feel, and while in contrasts with the surrounding material nicely enough, it seems to flow a little less than ideally, or at least than I want.  Piemontesi knows what he's doing.  The whole still works superbly well.   

In D960, Piemontesi goes for a long 20'13" opening Molto moderato, but he does a remarkable job making the movement feel shorter.  He plays much of the music, basically everything but the slowest music, with a readily apparent but not overbearing tension.  He also keeps the bass trills ever so light, quick, and not ponderous or portentous.  Indeed, Piemontesi keeps the whole movement together quite marvelously, never really moving into the premonition of death style interpretation, and at times there is real vigor and drive, but being live, some of the almost nutso clarity gives way to more real-life, recital like blurring and congestion, which is fine.  While the opening movement is quite fine and weighty, Piemontesi shifts the heart of the work to the Andante.  Tense yet subdued, lovely but emphatic where appropriate, nicely accented and smoothly delivered at the same time, the pianist moves the piece forward with a perfect degree of weightiness, especially in the climax, and his gorgeous right hand playing reappears.  The Scherzo is light and quick, with snazzy rhythmic components, and the Allegro ma non troppo is as well, with a sort of smooth, gliding feel to some of the playing, and while the fortissimo playing has real weight, there's more of a sense of ethereal lightness, with the perfectly gauged right hand playing again the most ear catching part.  This is a very fine D960, if not quite to the same comparative level as the preceding two works.

Beyond SOTA sound for D958 and D959, and superb live sound for D960.

Piemontesi is kicking ass and taking names. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General