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The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: Todd on June 05, 2015, 06:56:56 AM

Title: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 05, 2015, 06:56:56 AM
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I do love me some Schubert solo piano music.  After Beethoven and Debussy, Schubert is probably the composer I listen to most in the solo piano repertoire.  The sonatas from D664 on, the Impromptus, the Wanderer Fantaisie, the Moments Musicaux: I love ‘em all, and I always enjoy hearing both old favorites and new and, hopefully, fresh recordings.  With Andras Schiff’s new release of Schubert recorded on a fortepiano, I decided to buy not only his new disc – Schiff releases are basically mandatory purchases for me – but also to splurge and by a bunch of Schubert discs.  As it happened, this splurge also overlapped with my Italian market release splurge in the form of Michail Lifits’ twofer including D845 and D894. 

Schiff got the first spin.  Schiff’s Decca Schubert recordings are up there with the best to my ears, so when I saw that he recorded Schubert for ECM, I was most excited.  So far, irrespective of repertoire, I prefer Schiff’s ECM recordings to his earlier outings.  Alas, these recordings are on fortepiano.  Very few artists have been able to produce fortepiano recordings I really enjoy rather than endure.  Paul Badura-Skoda and Penelope Crawford manage the feat in Beethoven, but Paul Badura-Skoda’s Schubert isn’t my thing.  There’s something about Schubert’s writing that seems to beg for the longer sustain of a modern grand, for the beautiful legato that is possible.  And Schiff is a proper pianist!  Well, not really, not anymore.  His last release of the Diabellis included a recording on the same 1820 Brodmann used here, so he is exploring new instruments.  I generally do not read liner notes, but for this Schubert release he wrote an essay called “Confessions of a Convert” in which he expounds on why he now loves to perform on a fortepiano.  He seems convinced, and it is reflected in the playing.

The set includes six works.  The D817 Hungarian Melody gets things off to a good but not great start.  Part of the issue is getting used to the sound.  The Brodmann seems to produce no high treble at all.  It produces a dull sound.  However, the closely miked recording also reveals all manner of little details throughout.  But the piece, not my favorite to begin with, never jells.  Things pick up in D894.  The instrument definitely lacks the power or sustain of a modern grand, but Schiff more than period specialists I’ve heard, manages to play with a good amount of power where needed, and the instrument ends up being more about quiet playing, allowing for all manner of subtlety in the slow movement.  Schiff is just the guy to bring it out.  The Moments Musicaux that end the first disc ends up being the highlight of the set.  The lack of sustain allows Schiff to play some passages with a soft bluntness, lending a darker hue at times, but he also manages to make some of the pieces sound quite lyrical, despite the instrument. 

The second disc starts off with the D915 Allegretto, which sound just dandy, and then moves to the D935 Impromptus.  Schiff manages much the same feat as with D780.  The set ends with D960.  Here the shortcomings of the instrument are inescapable in the opening movement, which sounds too small, and the bass trills, for the most part, too plain.  That written, as the movement progresses, Schiff uses the ability of the piano to stop on a dime to good effect.  The second movement sort of becomes the more intense center of the work.  I write sort of because, while it does not become the center of the work, the Scherzo is one of the most amazing, mesmerizing takes I’ve ever heard.  I don’t know if Schiff uses the moderator pedal throughout, or what else he may be doing, but the playing is gossamer light, swift, incredibly clear and well articulated, and just whizzes by.  It’s breathtaking and brilliant.  The final movement is more earthbound but still more than excellent.

For me, with my limited exposure to HIP Schubert, Schiff now sets the standard, though there is no doubt that I prefer the sound of a modern grand and I will continue to listen to Schubert that way for the most part.  This release does make me hope that Schiff revisits Mozart using the Brodmann, or perhaps some other period keyboard.  Perhaps he can do there what he does here. 

Sound is ECM’s best.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Oldnslow on June 05, 2015, 11:03:02 AM
Absolutely gorgeous Schubert recordings by Schiff. I too was skeptical about the fortepiano, but this puts one in mind of how these pieces might have sounded, if anyone had ever played them during Schubert's lifetime.  The ear easily adjusts.  Too bad recital halls used by major artists like Schiff are completely inappropriate for the foretpiano.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Oldnslow on June 05, 2015, 05:00:48 PM
Todd--two young pianists I have been enjoying  very much lately are Joseph Moog and Hannes Minnaar. Do you know their work?
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 06, 2015, 07:57:39 AM
Todd--two young pianists I have been enjoying  very much lately are Joseph Moog and Hannes Minnaar. Do you know their work?


I do not.  Mr Moog, in particular, has received praise from others, so I suspect I will hear him at some point.  I may opt to wait to hear him in recital next season for my initial exposure to his talents.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Jubal Slate on June 06, 2015, 08:10:48 AM
wishlisted. thanks.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 06, 2015, 08:37:16 AM
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This disc represents my first exposure to David Fray's playing.  I've seen Mr Fray described as this century's Ivo Pogorelich.  I took that to mean that he's a young, handsome fella with luxurious and stylish hair who plays idiosyncratically.  I'll leave it to gentle readers to assess his looks, but I will say that his playing is idiosyncratic.  As I have not heard Pogorelich play any Schubert, I would say that a better comparison would be Tzimon Barto, but only to an extent.  Fray very much appears to belong to the Slow Is Profound school of interpretation, at least for this disc.  Every piece is slower than normal.  Noticeably slower.  Rather like Mr Barto, Fray stretches some passages way out, but unlike Mr Barto, Fray never breaks the musical line.  In addition to playing slow, Fray also revels in playing quietly.  Very quietly at times.  His pianissimos are delicate yet colorful, and his dynamic gradation from piano to pianissimo is at least the equal of any other pianist I've heard. 

Fray also has two more tricks up his sleeve.  First is his ability to play slow and loud.  Maybe not fortissimo, but definitely forte.  Often, pianists speed up when playing loud, but Fray can maintain a proper Adagio tempo and still play loud.  That written, it's more impressive than effective.  Second, even when playing slow, Fray can impart forward momentum and notable rhythmic flair.  This is both impressive and effective. 

The set includes the Moments Musicaux, and coming right after Andras Schiff's new recording, it offers quite a contrast.  This is an unabashedly pianistic take.  Fray deploys the resources of a modern grand without hesitation, and to good effect.  I prefer Schiff, though not by a huge margin.  It also offers a repeatless Allegretto D915, and here it's a toss up.  The D899 Impromptus are well played, but here the idiosyncratic nature of Fray's playing is not as effective.  Nothing is bad, and I will absolutely be listening again multiple times – playing with this many ideas is hard to resist for a few reasons – but, at the current time, I can't say that this work or the others are the best out there.  But I feel compelled to hear more from Mr Fray.  As it happens, his newest Schubert disc is in my queue.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 07, 2015, 07:01:18 AM
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Hanna Shybayeva is a name new to me.  She's a Belarusian pianist now based in Germany.  She has won various awards, performed with various second- and third-tier orchestras and conductors, and made a few recordings.  I decided to give her Schubert a try.

The disc opens with D959 and closes with D784.  Shybayeva appears to belong to the Slow Is Profound school of interpretation.  This is especially true during quieter passages, where she stretches out phrases and sections to a notable but not exceptional degree.  During louder passages, she tends to speed up.  Her dynamic range is decent but not great, her quiet playing is decent but not great, her tonal palette is limited but not bad.  She doesn't botch any passages, but she doesn't bring anything particularly memorable to them, either.  Her Schubert sounds nice, but it is not gorgeous, it is not aggressive (or not enough, especially in the opening of D784), it is not lyrical, it is not deep, it is not dark.  It is just sort of there. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 08, 2015, 05:17:07 PM
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Alright, I'll 'fess up: Sometimes I do judge a book by its cover, as it were, and I buy recordings based on what can be faulty assumptions.  A case in point: Hideyo Harada's Schubert.  I saw a shot of a diminutive, female Japanese pianist, and I thought she would play in a measured, tonally lovely, and refined way.  In other words, I was expecting Ikuyo Nakamichi.  That is not what I got.  The disc opens with the Wanderer Fantisie, and Harada's playing is fast(-ish), strident, and intense.  This is muscular Schubert, punching its way forward.  Harada does slow down in the Adagio quite a bit, but perhaps just to catch her breath.  For all the loud, bright, and clangorous playing, the dynamic range isn't huge, and the playing is not exactly the height of subtlety, nor of clarity.  At the start of the year, I picked up Jean-Rodolphe Kars' version, which is almost otherwordly and is pretty much the polar opposite of this.  His version is one of the greatest I've heard.  This one is not.  It could work in lieu of a triple espresso to wake a tired listener, though.

The second work is the big D960.  By big, I mean long.  Forty-six big ones long, starting off with an over twenty-two minute Molto moderato.  To Harada's credit, the movement does not drag, and she can and does hammer home the loudest passages to good effect.  Unfortunately, the playing lacks subtlety much of the time, and more important yet, depth.  Despite the great length of the opener, the second movement seems to be the heart of the work for Ms Harada.  Her playing is more focussed and she seems to deliver the big picture of the movement, if perhaps not the piece.  It has some searching, effective, moments, too.  The Scherzo is likewise very good, though coming so soon after Andras Schiff's near-paradigm shifting take, it is clear how much better can be had.  The final Allegro is peppy and energetic, with an assertive, biting coda.  Not bad.  Not great.

Ms Harada is certainly a talented pianist, and for those who want their Schubert hard and steely, this could be the ticket.  I'm not averse to this style – Kovacevich's recorded Schubert is hardly dainty and is among the greatest of all – but Harada has waded into territory where the heaviest of heavyweights rule, and while she has a heavyweight sound, I prefer quite a few others in both works.

Audite's 24/44.1 PCM to DSD transfer sound is bright and clear in the SACD layer and has good dynamic range, but it is not as good as the best redbook piano recordings I own. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 10, 2015, 05:22:16 PM
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So light, so clean.  That's the first thing that came to my mind listening to D664 as played by George Emmanuel Lazaridis, and I kept thinking it.  The delightful little sonata here is more light than delight.  Lazaridis keeps it lyrical, and he doesn't perfume the playing with lots of sustain.  That can be good or not so good, depending on taste, and for me, the piece doesn't produce a beautiful sound that I can luxuriate in.

The Wanderer Fantasie is a bit heftier, but still light, and man does Lazaridis take the opening movement fast.  His playing remains a model of clarity, and the energy level stays high (but not Hideyo Harada high) througout.  He slows down for the Adagio, and plays in most appealing, if again relatively lightly pedaled fashion.  His climaxes sound undernourished, though, which seems to be due to the recording.  As he plays the last two movements, Lazaridis' clarity remains exceptionally good, and one can follow the left hand playing with ease, and the repeated right hand figurations near the end are sharp and oh so clean. 

D960 closes the disc out.  Lazaridis' tempo choices are pretty conventional, and the light sound doesn't do much to make the opening movement dark.  With the remarkable independence of hands displayed here, the left hand is as easy to follow as the right, which at times may be too much of a good thing.  In Schubert, melody is ultimately the thing for me.  I will say that his rubato is tasteful and effective, but his bass trills are (perhaps) too light, and the movement as whole never transcends its best moments.   Lazaridis makes the Andante sostenuto the centerpiece of the work, and here it is downright lovely and at times nearly hypnotically serene.  This is some great playing.  The Scherzo is light and fleet (but it has the bad luck to be heard so soon after Schiff's version), as is, for the most part, the Allegro.  Lazaridis' Schubert overall is light and classical, though individual, in nature.  I can enjoy this style, but, the Andante of D960 aside, the disc never really tickled my fancy.

About that recording, on my system, and in my room, the piano sounds small and light in the lower registers most of the time, and climaxes never really achieve a satisfying sense of scale.  While I doubt Lazaridis plays with a huge, rich sonority in person, I get the feeling he doesn't sound quite like what I heard on the disc. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 12, 2015, 04:49:51 PM
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(This will be cross-posted in The Italian Invasion thread.)

Release seven, and discs eight and nine.  Michail Lifits playing Schubert.  The twofer opens with a  slow D894, which opens with a slow Molto moderato e cantabile that tops 20'.  Lifits again plays with unfailing beauty, and his measured tempo does nothing to prevent the music from singing.  His loud playing is definitely loud, but not at all hard, and the sound is full.  The whole thing is almost beautiful to a fault, and I ended up being surprised (sort of) when the coda arrived, so quickly did the movement seem to go by.  The Andante carries on in exactly the same way.  I suppose it would be possible for there to be a bit sharper edges on some of the playing, and that some may find it too soft, but at the same time, the unending beauty is its own reward.  The Menuetto has more lyrical but striking playing in the outer sections, and the middle section is one of the purest, most delicate beauty.  The Allegretto lightens things up a bit to end the work, like a sort of slightly beefier D664.  Listeners who want a heavy, or hard, or intense D894 will probably not find this version to be among their favorites, but while I can and do enjoy those types of interpretations, this is just wonderful.

The second disc contains D845.  Lifits again takes the piece on the slow side, which does not generally work as well here.  Lifits manages to make it work by ratcheting up the intensity and adding some real bite to his right hand sforzandi.  His hefty left hand playing also adds some scale.  The Andante likewise sounds lovely, but here Lifits plays the climaxes with some real intensity, and he plays some of the right hand passages in a sort of dreamy, stream of consciousness style that I really enjoy.  Only during the Scherzo's outer sections does Lifits' slow style show any signs of becoming too mannered.  That's certainly not a problem in the vibrant Rondo, which finds Lifits playing the most animated fashion of either of his two Decca releases.  No, this is not a fire-breathing version like Friedrich Gulda's, or a powerhouse reading like Radu Lupu's, or a marmoreal reading like Maurizio Pollini's, but I really, really dig it.  Really.

So, for those who like rich, beautiful, warm Schubert with basically no true rough edges, this is a set to snap up.  If that reads like faint praise, it is not meant to: This is top-flight stuff.

Sound is beautiful, full, rich, and close.  It is possible to hear Lifits breathing from time-to-time, yet there is no mechanism noise nor any other distractions to take away from the beautiful playing. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 14, 2015, 07:12:34 AM
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Hot damn!  I had reservations about David Fray’s prior Schubert disc, but I have no reservations here.  The best analogy I can think of is to proper exposures in photography.  Sometimes, even slightly under- or overexposed images can take away some of the impact of a photo, but when the exposure is perfect, the photo is perfect.  If perhaps Fray’s playing on the prior disc was slightly underexposed, here it is properly exposed, and with the Zeiss-like perfection of his playing, this disc is a keeper, and then some.

The disc opens with D894.  Fray's tempo is just a bit slow, but rarely have I heard the first movement flow so perfectly.  Fray's emphasis throughout is on melody.  The left hand playing, while clear and perfectly controlled, is subdued.  Whether that's the playing or the piano or the recording, or some combination of all three, I don't know, and while it ultimately constrains the loudness of the climaxes, it does not in any way hinder the music.  If anything, it creates a self-contained sonic world where everything is proportioned just right, and beauty reigns supreme.  The Andante flows along much the same way, and Fray does put a bit more oomph into the loudest passages.  The Menuetto likewise flows smoothly and beautifully.  The Allegretto is astoundingly good.  Brisk, crisp, and beautiful the whole time, Fray snaps out some chords with a simultaneously firm and gentle touch, imparting what I can only describe as charming wit.  This D894 is right up there with the very best.

Fray follows this up with a Hungarian Melody D817 that is essentially perfect.  It far transcends Andras Schiff's new recording, not least because of Fray's almost unlimited nuance in the right hand playing. 

The next two works are for piano four hands, and here Fray is joined by one if his teachers, and Debussyan of note, Jacques Rouvier.  The D940 Fantasie remains somewhat small in scale, as well as generally light in tone, with a lively Scherzo.  Fray and Rouvier can and do build up tension and scale nicely on occasion, as in the fugue near the end.  The Allegro D947 concludes the disc.  It's a piece I've only listened to a few times before from the Pires/Castro duo.  Fray and Rouvier impart liveliness and intensity in equal measure, and the textures sound comparatively thick, but the Schubertian melodiousness remains.  It's a strong closer.  (The duo pieces are good enough, D940 especially, that I wish more versions were out there.  I've got a few other versions – Lupu/Perahia, a couple with Pires – but these are good enough to warrant more recordings for obsessive collectors.  Maybe Mr and Mrs Herbert Schuch will get around to recording these, and other, works.)

This is a superb disc, one of the best I've bought this year, and proof that the erstwhile majors can, on occasion, still crank out tip-top shelf stuff.  I will be exploring more of Fray's recordings.  Now, when will he record with his father-in-law?
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on June 16, 2015, 06:26:12 AM
Be sure to try fray's Boulez.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 16, 2015, 06:27:32 AM
Be sure to try fray's Boulez.



In my cart at Amazon already.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 16, 2015, 07:02:33 AM
Any more recent recordings I should hear?



Endres, Schuch, Schiff, Chamayou, in that order.  (Well, for me.)  Fray is on my radar.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Brian on June 16, 2015, 07:08:25 AM
Brendel is my starting point.  Any more recent recordings I should hear?
Well, if you had asked about older recordings, I'd say Vera Gornostaeva



which sizzles like a lightning bolt. Bold, all-caps Wanderer with an exclamation mark. I'm dying for some more GMGers to jump on the Gornostaeva bandwagon so it won't just be me.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 16, 2015, 07:30:43 AM
When I saw the earlier Fray posts, I looked to see if he'd done it - but no. 


Fray recorded it for Atma.

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Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on June 16, 2015, 08:31:01 AM
I am listening to the Wanderer Fantasie as part of my review of the Liszt B Minor Sonata, since both use a four-part form, recycling and transforming a few themes, which some say Liszt got from the Schubert work.

Brendel is my starting point.  Any more recent recordings I should hear?

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You should hear Sofronitsky, and Elly Ney
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 16, 2015, 09:54:09 AM
I am listening to the Wanderer Fantasie...Brendel is my starting point.  Any more recent recordings I should hear?

I like my Wanderer with a little of the brimstone to it, like an agitated march to the hangman's noose (those left hand trills should invoke this). To that end I enjoy Katchen's 1958 recording. Unfortunately long OOP but may be somewhere online.

Richter's too is a, err...near perfect march.




Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: mc ukrneal on June 16, 2015, 09:58:37 AM
Richter's too is a, err...near perfect march.

You mean this one?

Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 16, 2015, 11:06:11 AM
You mean this one?

Yes, that's it.



Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 16, 2015, 02:53:55 PM
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Jean-Claude Pennetier's twofer.  The first disc is given over to a 48 minute take on the G Major sonata, the longest of the versions in this glob of Schubert discs.  That's as long as Richter, but whereas Richter's overall duration is due mostly to the crazy long opening movement, Pennetier plays a longer than normal opening movement, and then plays every other movement noticeably slower than normal, too.  So, if you like slow for the sake of being slow, this recording should be short-listed.  The slowness is so pervasive that it begins to distract at times.  The opening movement does have some lovely and serene passages, but it also introduces Pennetier's mannerism of dynamic extremes.  The loudest passages are extremely loud, and most of the surrounding music is notably quiet.  This reaches its apex in the often hammered out Menuetto, where the constantly vocalising Pennetier also exaggerates right hand playing.  The final movement is oddly stilted much of the time.  This is an idiosyncratic and not particularly satisfying recording.

The second disc contains a longer than normal D959.  Here, the slower tempi aren't as pronounced, and the effect less deleterious.  In fact, the tempi don't cause any harm.  The first movement unfolds at a nice pace, though the extreme dynamic contrasts detract as in D894, but not nearly as much.  The overall feel, the overall mood sounds righter to my ears.  The Andantino is fantastic.  Here, Pennetier's dynamic contrasts do work, and his phrasing, his rubato, his balance of voices, his everything really works.  The playing is still mannered, but everything jells.  Likewise, the Scherzo works well.  The outer sections have nice rhythmic flair, and the trio is slow and introspective.  The occasionally liesurely Rondo flows along nicely, with nicely lyrical playing much of the time, but Pennetier plays some of right hand playing with a not unappealing flintiness at times.  This is definitely the more succesful of the two works in this twofer, and it has some real high points, but I can't say that it matches my favorites.  Sound is good but not SOTA.  A mixed bag.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Holden on June 16, 2015, 04:25:13 PM
I like my Wanderer with a little of the brimstone to it, like an agitated march to the hangman's noose (those left hand trills should invoke this). To that end I enjoy Katchen's 1958 recording. Unfortunately long OOP but may be somewhere online.



It's on Spotify and I'm enjoying it very much. Must go back and compare it to the Richter which has been my favourite. I suspect that this may replace it.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 16, 2015, 05:54:21 PM
It's on Spotify and I'm enjoying it very much. Must go back and compare it to the Richter which has been my favourite. I suspect that this may replace it.

Great, Holden! :)


Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Holden on June 17, 2015, 10:40:55 AM
It's on Spotify?  I cannot find it.  Can you post a link?

Spotify doesn't work with links (well, not for me anyway). I typed Julius Katchen into the search engine, selected him as artist, selected 'see all albums' and scrolled down to "Julius Katchen: the Decca Recordings 1949 - 1968" and it's on Disc 2.

https://open.spotify.com/album/6pGvF5n6c2L1s25qd8D3Mq

is what I came up with when I right clicked on the above title.

Good luck, I certainly enjoyed hearing this performance.

BTW, there are some other excellent recordings in this set from Decca.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Holden on June 17, 2015, 02:43:21 PM
Where are you located?  I used the lnk and came up with the album (still couldn't find it by searching, though) - but almost the entire second half is grayed-out for me.  I can't play the Wanderer Fantasie for some reason probably related to regional licensing restrictions.

Oh well.  Thanks anyway.

Interesting that some selections are greyed out. I'm in Australia and I have Spotify premium though that should not make a difference to the free version - you just have to put up with the ads. If you look further down the list, there is a solo version which from the sound quality is probably taken from an LP. Same performance though.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 17, 2015, 03:46:30 PM
BTW, there are some other excellent recordings in this set from Decca.

There sure are. Interesting about the unavailability to sanantonio. It may be no coincidence that this set is available to you, Holden, but not here in the States (and elsewhere?). For some reason, the brains behind that old Katchen series decided it would be a good thing to release about half the series internationally while keeping the other half as a Decca Australia exclusive.

So back then I actually had to order this particular volume direct from Australia through Buywell. It wasn't available anywhere else. Not even Amazon as an import. That's changed now for whatever reason.

So this may factor into things somehow. 
 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 18, 2015, 04:26:52 AM
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As if to offer a respite from slow Schubert, the lovely young Weiyin Chen offers a nicely brisk opening movement – or as brisk as a 17'39'' Molto moderao e cantabile can offer.  The slow passages are fairly conventional and quite lovely, but the faster playing is notably faster than the versions I've listened to the last couple weeks, and most other versions, too.  This quicker playing results in a less lovely tone and hints of metal, but that isn't make or break.  It would definitely be more of a make if the tension were ratcheted up even more.  The rest of the sonata is fairly conventional in terms of timing, and the approach is ever so slightly on the harder side, though never harsh or ugly.  There's some zest to the playing, the Allegretto, in particular.  I can't say that it matches Fray or Lifits or Schiff from this batch, nor does it match up to older established favorites.

Since this thread is all about Schubert, all I'll say about her Schumann is that it is quick, well played, and entertaining.  It can't really compare to Argerich or Levitzki, but that's a pretty tall order. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on July 04, 2015, 07:31:46 AM
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Hot damn!  I had reservations about David Fray’s prior Schubert disc, but I have no reservations here.  The best analogy I can think of is to proper exposures in photography.  Sometimes, even slightly under- or overexposed images can take away some of the impact of a photo, but when the exposure is perfect, the photo is perfect.  If perhaps Fray’s playing on the prior disc was slightly underexposed, here it is properly exposed, and with the Zeiss-like perfection of his playing, this disc is a keeper, and then some.

The disc opens with D894.  Fray's tempo is just a bit slow, but rarely have I heard the first movement flow so perfectly.  Fray's emphasis throughout is on melody.  The left hand playing, while clear and perfectly controlled, is subdued.  Whether that's the playing or the piano or the recording, or some combination of all three, I don't know, and while it ultimately constrains the loudness of the climaxes, it does not in any way hinder the music.  If anything, it creates a self-contained sonic world where everything is proportioned just right, and beauty reigns supreme.
  The Andante flows along much the same way, and Fray does put a bit more oomph into the loudest passages.  The Menuetto likewise flows smoothly and beautifully.  The Allegretto is astoundingly good.  Brisk, crisp, and beautiful the whole time, Fray snaps out some chords with a simultaneously firm and gentle touch, imparting what I can only describe as charming wit.  This D894 is right up there with the very best.

Fray follows this up with a Hungarian Melody D817 that is essentially perfect.  It far transcends Andras Schiff's new recording, not least because of Fray's almost unlimited nuance in the right hand playing. 

The next two works are for piano four hands, and here Fray is joined by one if his teachers, and Debussyan of note, Jacques Rouvier.  The D940 Fantasie remains somewhat small in scale, as well as generally light in tone, with a lively Scherzo.  Fray and Rouvier can and do build up tension and scale nicely on occasion, as in the fugue near the end.  The Allegro D947 concludes the disc.  It's a piece I've only listened to a few times before from the Pires/Castro duo.  Fray and Rouvier impart liveliness and intensity in equal measure, and the textures sound comparatively thick, but the Schubertian melodiousness remains.  It's a strong closer.  (The duo pieces are good enough, D940 especially, that I wish more versions were out there.  I've got a few other versions – Lupu/Perahia, a couple with Pires – but these are good enough to warrant more recordings for obsessive collectors.  Maybe Mr and Mrs Herbert Schuch will get around to recording these, and other, works.)

This is a superb disc, one of the best I've bought this year, and proof that the erstwhile majors can, on occasion, still crank out tip-top shelf stuff.  I will be exploring more of Fray's recordings.  Now, when will he record with his father-in-law?

First, respect to you for such an accurate description, I'm talking about the bit in bold. After listening to it I sampled a bunch of other d894/i's, and most pianists I found balanced the music with an eye to beauty and melifluousness, though I think that Fray does it really well.

But the most exciting thing for me isn't Fray, it's that I found a recording which takes the polar opposite approach to the balances of LH and RH, a recording which maximises tension and dissonance rather than beauty. It's Claudio Arrau's, one of his final recordings.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on September 20, 2015, 03:56:25 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71JAh1riA0L._SX425_.jpg)


It's been years since last I listened to David Korevaar's LvB sonata disc, and my faded memory was of a talented pianist with a big sound and unique ideas.  If he didn't crack the top ten in any of the sonatas I listened to, he didn't need to.  Fast forward to 2015, and his nearly hot off the press recording of D894 and D959 on MSR caught my eye.  These are the same two sonatas that Pennetier covered, but Korevaar manages to squeeze both onto one disc, with time to spare.

Part of that is achieved through a brisk G Major sonata, without first movement repeat.  Almost everything else is there.  Korevaar makes the piece sing.  He plays with admirable clarity.  He arpeggiates some chords in both the opening and closing movements to good effect.  He plays with larger than average scale – no dainty playing this!  The one thing that is missing, or at least not as pronounced as it can be, is dynamics, particularly on the soft end, and especially in the opening movement.  While Korevaar never thunders unnecessarily, he also never seems to achieve a truly satisfying ppp sound.  Has David Fray spoiled me?  Anyway, this is something of a quibble, because overall the sonata is excellent.

D959 is better yet.  Korevaar's big sound imparts a sense of scale and drama that really works.  The opening movement is swift but not rushed, and turbulent but controlled.  The Andantino has some stark, cool playing in some passages, and Korevaar deploys some rubato that can catch the listener off guard, but it still works.  There are a couple times where some transitions seem a bit stiff, and this also occurs in the Scherzo, but in that movement, the energy, and sparkle up high and heft down low far more than offset a second or two that I wish were different.  The final movement largely alternates between really large scaled yet lyrical playing, and more subdued but admirably dextrous playing, especially in the melodies.  The whole thing is extremely fine.   

Sound for the disc is superb, and Korevaar's Shigeru Kawai sounds grand indeed.  This disc trounces Pennetier's twofer.  Perhaps neither performance here is a top five performance, or maybe even a top ten performance, but then, they do not need to be.  I must say after listening to this, I would really love to hear Korevaar take on the Brahms concertos. 

One additional quibble: movement timings are swapped for the two sonatas.  How hard is that to get right?
 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mr. Three Putt on October 06, 2015, 02:03:50 PM
First things first. I love this thread and all things Schubert really. I'm a bit short on time now so I'll start with D960 and come back later for more. I own Brendel, Colombo, Perahia, Richter, and Uchida and currently prefer Uchida's version. The flow is amazing and her delicate touch is on full display. I haven't heard the Colombo or Perahia enough to form opinions but that will come. Brendel is old reliable for me and rarely disappoints. The slow tempo Richter utilizes in movement 1 is a deal breaker for me. I love Richter as a performer but I'll get my Schubert elsewhere. At least for now and with the B Flat. I also love Uchida's Moments Musicaux and highly recommend this set.

-M3P
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on October 07, 2015, 01:48:15 AM
First things first. I love this thread and all things Schubert really. I'm a bit short on time now so I'll start with D960 and come back later for more. I own Brendel, Colombo, Perahia, Richter, and Uchida and currently prefer Uchida's version. The flow is amazing and her delicate touch is on full display. I haven't heard the Colombo or Perahia enough to form opinions but that will come. Brendel is old reliable for me and rarely disappoints. The slow tempo Richter utilizes in movement 1 is a deal breaker for me. I love Richter as a performer but I'll get my Schubert elsewhere. At least for now and with the B Flat. I also love Uchida's Moments Musicaux and highly recommend this set.

-M3P

For D 960 I listened to a handful recently ans was astonished by how wonderful Yudina Is, for the way she changes tempos like a Furtwangler of the piano or something- I have an uncommercial transfer from the LP and that helps, as the Vista Vera transfer is imperfect. For Moments Musicaux, the pianist who impressed me most was Youri Egerov. , because in a way I can't explain right now, he makes them sound more modern. I hate the 19th century so it's nice to find non 19th century sounding performances. I heard a lot of Uchida's Schubert in concert, in a half a dozen recitals dedicated to Schubert and Schoenberg. I remember the Schoenberg better than the Schubert.

In 960 you must have the repeat, or you're leaving out the best bit of the first movement, and I vaguely remember Uchida leaves it out. Why do pianists do that - you're a musician aren't you? Maybe you have an answer better than "to fit it on one side."
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Florestan on October 07, 2015, 07:01:57 AM
The most idiomatic (in the good sense of the word) D960 I´ve ever heard is by Yvonne Lefebure. It´s coupled with some equally interesting Davidsbundlertanze on this disc:

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51xbd0lM25L._SS280.jpg)

I can let you guys have it, FLAC or mp3. Please PM me if interested.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mr. Three Putt on October 07, 2015, 10:01:54 AM
In 960 you must have the repeat, or you're leaving out the best bit of the first movement, and I vaguely remember Uchida leaves it out. Why do pianists do that - you're a musician aren't you? Maybe you have an answer better than "to fit it on one side."

I'm guessing it could be a time constraint but that's unlikely. I'm usually a fan of Schubert repeats so I understand what you mean here. A good example being Schubert 9 where my go-to versions are Muti and Minkowski for repeats, yet occasionally I pull out my Bohm. It's probably my favorite version albeit without the repeats. It seems to be a more recent thing with Schubert to include the repeats as many of the war era conductors did not.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on October 07, 2015, 10:45:49 PM
The most idiomatic (in the good sense of the word) D960 I´ve ever heard is by Yvonne Lefebure. It´s coupled with some equally interesting Davidsbundlertanze on this disc:

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51xbd0lM25L._SS280.jpg)

I can let you guys have it, FLAC or mp3. Please PM me if interested.

She makes Schubert sound like Beethoven -- you know, moving forward in a determined way towards a goal.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on October 07, 2015, 11:00:37 PM
It seems to be a more recent thing with Schubert to include the repeats as many of the war era conductors did not.

I think Richter was the first to record the 960 repeat in 1957.

In 960 if you don't take the repeat you lose the ominous bass trill. It's not just a repetition of music previously heard. I wonder if people don't take the repeat because  the trill doesn't fit their picture of Schubert. You know, "placid Schubert." 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mr. Three Putt on October 08, 2015, 03:15:47 AM
I think Richter was the first to record the 960 repeat in 1957.

In 960 if you don't take the repeat you lose the ominous bass trill. It's not just a repetition of music previously heard. I wonder if people don't take the repeat because  the trill doesn't fit their picture of Schubert. You know, "placid Schubert."

It appears I'll be doing some reevaluating on this, as I may be suffering from "first version favoritism" thanks to Mr. Brendel. Brendel was my first upgrade in Schubert's sonatas and certainly my most played to date. Not only does he not take the repeats, but he's lobbied against them. Uchida does play the repeats, at least in the set I own, and I see exactly what you mean now. It's a relatively new set for me and I'll be doing some focused listening today. The same thing happened to me with the Schubert 9/Bohm. It was the first S9 I ever owned and I was completely unaware of the repeats. After hearing them (I like mvt 1 repeat but mvt 3 is essential) a new world opened up and I began paying close attention to run times.

Note: I may be in the minority here but the repeat in Beethoven 9/2 is not for me. It sounds like the record skipped and started over.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mr. Three Putt on October 10, 2015, 12:33:24 PM
The most underrated piece of music Schubert ever composed, in my humblest of opinions. The brilliant Rondeau Brillant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCMHH_rejP8 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCMHH_rejP8)
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: amw on October 10, 2015, 08:04:11 PM
In 960 you must have the repeat, or you're leaving out the best bit of the first movement, and I vaguely remember Uchida leaves it out. Why do pianists do that - you're a musician aren't you? Maybe you have an answer better than "to fit it on one side."
iirc Alfred Brendel was against the repeat in 960 because the first ending contains material that is too different from the overall character of the movement. Someone else (Rosen maybe?) argued that the difference makes it imperative to keep the repeat and compared omitting it to cutting off a limb.

I suspect a lot of people leave out the repeats in Schubert because he writes movements that (with repeats) are very long, with recapitulations that follow the expositions note-for-note (so you basically hear the same material three times, just the third time in a different key), and they just get bored. Or think the audience will get bored, which is more or less the same thing. Or they're taking an inappropriately late-Romantic "endless melody" view of Schubert that severs him from his Classical tradition and makes the music sound rootless and vague.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Jo498 on October 10, 2015, 11:53:20 PM
I think I once read that Brendel skipped the repeats so he could play the last 3 sonatas on one evening without making the recital unduly long. But this seems not a very good reason, so he might never have said that.

I tend to favor having the repeats, but I think in some cases there are plausible reasons for skipping them.*

If there is a long prima volta as in Schubert D 960 there is too much music skipped if the repeat is missing. If there is not and the movement is already rather long and repetitive (like the finale of the Great C major), it might work better without repeat. Schubert really is a special case, I believe, for the reasons mentioned. Another point is that for some of his movements (like the 1st in D 960 and 894) there is a tradition of playing them very slowly, so they become even longer. Apparently there are some listeners (and musicians) who seem to think that those overlong "meditative" pieces are exactly what Schubert wanted but I do have my doubts about that... Schubert could be, even in his last works in some respects surprisingly "formulaic"; the sometimes literal repetitions in the recap (something one will hardly ever find in Haydn), the clinging to the standard 4 movements with often apparently too slight or cheerful 3rd and 4th movements etc.

*this also applies to double bar repeats of the "second part", i.e. development and recap in many works of Mozart and Haydn (and some early Beethoven and Schubert as well).
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on October 11, 2015, 12:38:59 AM
. Schubert could be, even in his last works in some respects surprisingly "formulaic"; the sometimes literal repetitions in the recap (something one will hardly ever find in Haydn), the clinging to the standard 4 movements with often apparently too slight or cheerful 3rd and 4th movements etc.



The challenge is to makes sense of this. Saying that he just wrote bad music which we can improve be leaving bits out, that's always a possibility, it may be right. But I think it's best to keep it as a last resort, better to try to find a way to be more charitable I think.

I'm not saying I've found the way, but I do think that resetting expectations away from Beethoven style vigorous movement to a goal is a start.

Repetitions, even quasi literal ones, can be meaningful, in the context of music dealing with time, identity, memory, change, eternity.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Jo498 on October 11, 2015, 01:27:27 AM
I don't think he wrote bad music and I explicitly said that one should not leave out a strange prima volta like in D 960,i because one thinks it does not fit with the rest of the movement. I trust Schubert far enough not to make "mistakes" like that.
But I think that there might be cases of setting double bars for the customary repeats without thinking much about it or out of respect for tradition or whatever. So if there is no (or only a perfunctory bar or two) of music lost by skipping a double bar repeat I think there are often considerations in favor of skipping them so I do not automatically complain if an artist does that.

I am not sufficiently familiar with Schuberts way of composing but it seems that he wrote incredibly fast without much sketching and would often just discard a whole movement or two because he "got stuck". The fragments around 1821/22 (c minor quartet movement, b minor Unfinished symphony, E major symphony sketch, and later the "Reliquie" D 840) seem to be indications of this.

In his last years and greatest works he had "found his voice" but I think he still struggled with the forms sometimes which resulted not in writing poor or disorganized music but in sticking too slavishly/conservatively to 4 movements with a classicist outer form and customary character, including a lighter scherzo and finale. Because his first movements became extraordinarily broad and emotionally deep this sometimes lead to a clash with not only one, but two much lighter movements following where he sometimes could not find anything to make them more weighty but they simply became longer... and they are also not always so different in mood and pace from each other; so if he really wanted to fuse scherzo+finale in the sketched 10th symphony, this would, for me, be another indication that he was himself aware of that "problem" to some extent. I wonder why he never used the comparably simple trick to switch the inner movements like Beethoven sometimes did. Because, depending on the tempi the pianist takes, D 894 and 960 can also sound as if they began with two slow movements (but this is admittedly more the pianists' fault than Schubert's who probably intended much more flowing tempi for those first movements than Richter and followers took.)

Through the end, Schubert basically uses only two options for a finale: a usually leisurely rondo-style, often with more or less obvious inclinations to dance/coffeehouse music and a very fast, often tarantella-like "dance of death". I think the 2nd type yielded very successful pieces and "closings", e.g. in the c minor sonata and the d minor and G major quartets. Also the C major symphony (but this is a little "too happy" and too long for my taste). Of the rondo-style I think by far the best and maybe the only one I consider great w/o qualifications is the one in the string quintet, although I also like the ones in the piano trios and the a minor quartet (partly because those works do not feel as serious in the first two movements as e.g. D 959 and 960). I do not dislike the scherzo/menuetto and final movments of D 894, 959 and 960 per se but the feel not really fitting after the preceding movements. I am not fond of the finale of D 850 because this just feels like an afternoon in the Kaffeehaus and tends to get too gemuetlich and repetitive (I am not too fond of the whole D 850, admittedly).
Not quite that late but I rather like the finali of the a minor piano sonatas D 784 and 845. I always loved the vigor of the former but it took me a while to "get" the latter piece but I think now that it is one of the most impressive and original Schubert sonatas.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: El Chupacabra on October 11, 2015, 09:56:46 AM
It appears I'll be doing some reevaluating on this

Authenticity, taste, timing, fashion...etc are still debatable. First thing that I look for is authenticity, but one must keep in mind that the times these were composed were not the times the audience could listen to them over and over whenever they wanted to. That limits the chance for the composer for the "preparation for ear"...which is invalid for you and me. As I said, my preference is loyalty to the score but, then again, if I was strict I'd never have had the chance to listen to Goode's amazing account...
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on October 17, 2015, 03:01:15 PM
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I decided to try another "complete" set of Schubert's piano sonatas, and from among the few remaining near-complete and complete sets I have yet to hear, I opted for Martino Tirimo's because, well, because it is cheap.  And it's of the more complete than normal variety, spread out over eight discs and including incomplete sonatas, fragments, and the like.  My only prior exposure to Tirimo was his Debussy, which is probably the softest edged Debussy I've heard.  It's attractive but rather dull.  His Schubert, it turns out, kind of is, too.  There's not one bad performance in the lot.  There are even a couple really good ones: D894 is probably the highlight of the set, lyrical and dramatic in proper measure, and D960 is comparatively intense.  Throughout, everything is sensibly paced, dynamics and clarity are good, the music sings when it should, and so on.  But with the two exceptions mentioned, and maybe a movement here or there, the playing rarely held my attention.  It's another set where there's nothing exceptionable but nothing exceptional, either.

Not really helping matters is sound: it sounds as though the set was recorded in an airplane hangar.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on October 22, 2015, 11:33:35 AM
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After having heard a fair number of recordings by Steven Osborne, I have come to see his style as what I'll call museum quality piano playing.  He never puts a wrong foot forward.  Everything is meticulously played.  His recordings have a sheen of perfection about them, and they practically yell, or at least politely proclaim, this is classical music.  Yet something is held back.  There's a reserve, a detachment to his playing.  His style, for me, pays huge dividends in Ravel, and works quite well in Messiaen, too, but in Debussy, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven, there's a sense of things being a bit too smoothed over and constrained.  The limitations are only evident if I opt to compare him to other pianists, and even then it is only the interpretation that I may have concerns about – if ''concerns'' they be.

I didn't come to his Schubert with trepidation.  I came to it with eagerness.  My eagerness was rewarded.  For the most part.  The disc opens with D935, and all four impromptus sound unfailingly beautiful, though not lush and warm in the manner of Lifits, but rather polished, bright, and colorful.  And the melodies are the thing here.  Not to take anything away from Osborne's rock-solid left hand playing in terms of steadiness or clarity, but time and again on this disc, the right hand playing mesmerized me.  His gentle dynamic gradations at the quieter end of the spectrum are glorious, and when the music should sing, it does.  The great A flat major Impromptu, surely one of Schubert's greatest pieces, may (?) lack the intensity or deepest depths of some other versions, but it is so steady, so precise, and so controlled as to demand absolute focus from the listener.  The melodies in the F minor Impromptu offer aural bliss.  D946 starts off with a somewhat vigorously paced Allegro assai, which nonetheless remains lovely throughout.  The Allegretto is lovelier yet, if perhaps lacking the otherworldliness of Kars or experiential depth of Paik.  The Allegro is lyrical and the coda packs something of a punch.  It is not dark, heavy, brooding ''late'' Schubert, but it is effective on its own terms.  The disc ends with D576, Variations on a theme by Anselm Huttenbrenner, a piece I'm not even sure I've heard before (I'd have to check my collection).  It is a most enjoyable piece, if not a grand set of variations.

Listening, I sensed that museum quality feel to the playing throughout.  It lacks that something special that, just sticking to this thread, Fray or Lifits brings.  But that is observation more than criticism.  This is an extremely fine disc, and one of Osborne's better outings.  I certainly would not object if he recorded more Schubert.  And I'd really like to hear him in person.

SOTA sound.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mr. Three Putt on October 22, 2015, 11:41:29 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61M%2BLEJkKkL._SX425_.jpg)



After having heard a fair number of recordings by Steven Osborne, I have come too see his style as what I'll call museum quality piano playing.  He never puts a wring foot forward.  Everything is meticulously played.  His recordings have a sheen of perfection about them, and they practically yell, or at least politely proclaim, this is classical music.  Yet something is held back.  There's a reserve, a detachment to his playing.  His style, for me, pays huge dividends in Ravel, and works quite well in Messiaen, too, but in Debussy, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven, there's a sense of things being a bit too smoothed over and constrained.  The limitations are only evident if I opt to compare him to other pianists, and even then it is only the interpretation that I may have concerns about – if ''concerns'' they be.

I didn't come to his Schubert with trepidation.  I came to it with eagerness.  My eagerness was rewarded.  For the most part.  The disc opens with D935, and all four impromptus sound unfailingly beautiful, though not lush and warm in the manner of Lifits, but rather polished, bright, and colorful.  And the melodies are the thing here.  Not to take anything away from Osborne's rock-solid left hand playing in terms of steadiness or clarity, but time and again on this disc, the right hand playing mesmerized me.  His gentle dynamic gradations at the quieter end of the spectrum are glorious, and when the music should sing, it does.  The great A flat major Impromptu, surely one of Schubert's greatest pieces, may (?) lack the intensity or deepest depths of some other versions, but it is so steady, so precise, and so controlled as to demand absolute focus.  The melodies in the F minor Impromptu offer aural bliss.  D946 starts off with a somewhat vigorously paced Allegro assai, which nonetheless remains lovely throughout.  The Allegretto is lovelier yet, if perhaps lacking the otherworldliness of Kars or experiential depth of Paik.  The Allegro is lyrical and the coda packs something of a punch.  It is not dark, heavy, brooding ''late'' Schubert, but it is effective on its own terms.  The disc ends with D576, Variations on a theme by Anselm Huttenbrenner, a piece I'm not even sure I've heard before (I'd have to check my collection).  It is a most enjoyable piece, if not a grand set of variations.

Listening, I sensed that museum quality feel to the playing throughout.  It lacks that something special that, just sticking to this thread, Fray or Lifits brings.  But that is observation more than criticism.  This is an extremely fine disc, and one of Osborne's better outings.  I certainly would not object if he recorded more Schubert.  And I'd really like to hear him in person.

SOTA sound.

Thanks for sharing this. As a loyal Schubertian, this makes me want to explore (purchase) Osborne. I'll check Youtube now for versions.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on February 04, 2016, 07:43:52 PM
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My exposure to Paul Lewis started with his LvB sonata cycle.  I'm not much of a fan.  Sure, he plays some sonatas splendidly, especially Op 106, but I find his approach too leisurely and polite overall.  A few years ago, though, I attended a recital he gave that was right up my alley: Schubert's last three sonatas.  Three big works.  No frilly filler.  And his playing was different than displayed in his Beethoven cycle.  Quick, rhythmically vital, intense.  Throw in unwavering seriousness and impressive command, and it was one heckuva a recital. 

CD 1 opens with D760.  Lewis tears into the opening.  It is fast and potent and if some of the chords strike me as not well defined, I think that's mostly the recording.  This is much closer to the Lewis I heard in person than the Lewis I hear in LvB on disc.  Lewis then slows way down for much of the Adagio, and other slow portions, but for the most part this Wanderer is tense, restless, energetic, possessed of rhythmic drive largely lacking in Lewis' Beethoven, and is just swell.  D935 follows.  Lewis keeps these mostly tense, too, or at least tenser than I usually hear.  Partly as a result, Lewis' is not as lyrical as some other versions, but that's observation rather than criticism.  Except for some individual rubato in the last of the four, everything sounds mostly straight-forward.  The six disc journey starts well.

The second disc keeps the journey moving along.  Lewis plays the opening D845 with somewhat immoderate drive and intensity, but that's more than alright.  While he largely backs off for much of the Andante, he also plays with bite where appropriate.  The Scherzo and Rondo both display ample drive and intensity, bringing the piece to a satisfying conclusion.  This is no dainty drawing room Schubert; this is closer to Gulda in mien.  Good stuff.  The Moments Musicaux follow, and they remain tense and a bit quick, don't sound especially lyrical, and don't plumb the depths.  They do, however, evoke enough drama and flow superbly.  The set ends with the D915 Allegretto, which sounds stylistically similar.  The second disc of the set is also quite good.

So, Lewis' Schubert is some serious stuff, not as beautiful and lyrical as some, but very satisfying in its more severe way.  Thank goodness there are four more discs to hear.  Pity that the sound is so distant and reverberant, which markedly impacts clarity. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on February 21, 2016, 07:01:26 PM
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Elena Margolina is a pianist new to me.  Ms Margolina studied in Russia and Germany, took first prize in the Fifth International Schubert Piano Competition in 1995, performs regularly around Europe, teaches in Germany, and has made a decent number of recordings of more or less core rep.  That more or less sums up her not too lengthy bio, though I didn't do a lot of online investigation.  But more important is her playing.

The disc opens with D894.  Margolina goes the slow route in the Molto moderato, taking nearly nineteen minutes.  There are moments of beauty and lyricism, but there's also some tension, and her louder playing sometimes sounds hard, though never harsh.  This is not mushy Schubert, nor is it over the top intense.  The Andante maintains much the same feel and approach, to the music's benefit, as does the Menuetto.  Margolina plays the Allegretto with subtle rhythmic snap and at times lovely lyricism, while never tipping over into syrupy or soft sound, rather maintaining a largely bright, clean, colorful sound, which she does most of the time.

D946 comes relatively soon after Sokolov's new release, and there are some definite differences.  Margolina does not display the almost inhuman dynamic gradations and precision evident in Sokolov's playing, though by no means does that mean that her playing is not controlled and accurate, because it is.  Margolina shaves about a minute off the first two minutes off the first two movements, and two off the last when compared to Sokolov, and, accordingly, there is more energy and momentum and rhythmic snap.  The slower passages don't sound as tonally lustrous, especially in the first piece, but Margolina's approach also sounds more integrated and focused on the whole rather than the parts.  While very good overall, I find D894 more compelling on this disc, and find others more satisfying in this work – Paik, say, after programming the work to play in the correct order.

SACD sound is excellent.  I may have to give Margolina's other Schubert piano disc a shot.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Verena on March 11, 2016, 03:55:05 AM
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D946 comes relatively soon after Sokolov's new release, and there are some definite differences.  Margolina does not display the almost inhuman dynamic gradations and precision evident in Sokolov's playing, though by no means does that mean that her playing is not controlled and accurate, because it is.  Margolina shaves about a minute off the first two minutes off the first two movements, and two off the last when compared to Sokolov, and, accordingly, there is more energy and momentum and rhythmic snap.  The slower passages don't sound as tonally lustrous, especially in the first piece, but Margolina's approach also sounds more integrated and focused on the whole rather than the parts.  While very good overall, I find D894 more compelling on this disc, and find others more satisfying in this work – Paik, say, after programming the work to play in the correct order.

SACD sound is excellent.  I may have to give Margolina's other Schubert piano disc a shot.


Hi Todd, I learned a lot from your reviews (especially) of Schubert CDs :) . I'm really grateful, even though as a result I bought even more Schubert CDs, and Schubert is not exactly underrepresented in my library  ::) 
As for Sokolov, I heard him play the D946 live two years ago in Germany (Freiburg) and it was a much more impressive performance than the one on the CD in my view.  Everyone I talked to who was at the concert was stunned. Some people cried. Ever since I have been trying to find some commercially available performance that comes close. With little success so far  :-[
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 10, 2016, 05:49:45 AM
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The second set of Lewis' Schubert starts off with D850.  Lewis don't pussyfoot around in the opening Allegro.  Fast, fast, fast, and incredibly well articulated, Lewis cranks right through the opener in high energy, virtuosic fashion.  The slower passages seem close to unnecessarily slow, though they are lyrical and serve as nice rests before Lewis runs through the faster passages.  The Con Moto maintains a faster than normal pace, some tension, some real intensity in some places, yet sounds songful.  The Scherzo displays a perfectly judged mix of rhythmic verve, intensity, and lyricism, and it remains pretty much straight up serious.  Lewis lightens up just a bit in most of the Rondo, letting some sections flow beautifully, and letting others sound fun, and letting yet others sound robust but not overdone.  It's one heckuva a performance.  Here's a rival for Leif Ove Andsnes.  D894 follows.  Not too slow at 17'28'', Lewis starts off with a well nigh perfectly judged dynamic range that allows him to build up volume and intensity effectively later on in the Molto moderato e cantabile.  Lewis also plays with greater dynamic nuance on the quieter end of the spectrum, and plays most lyrically while keeping things tense.  Lewis keeps things taut and comparatively swift in the Andante, while maintaining a more lovely than expected sound.  The Menuetto adds some top-flight pianissimo playing to the mix, and the Allegretto balances the soft, lovely music and more vibrant playing well, and Lewis' vocalizing indicates he's into it.  An extremely fine recording.

The second disc starts off with the D899 Impromptus, and this is about the most serious take on these works I've heard.  Lewis never plays an ugly note, and there are moments of lyrical beauty, but the tempi are generally on the swift side, the rubato minimized, the focus on forward movement.  There is an intensity, a sort of grimacing medium-heartedness to the playing.  If that reads negative, it's not meant to, it's just to say this is not mellifluous, light Impromptu playing.  The proper two-movement D840 follows, and it sounds unsentimental, not to say cold, and satisfyingly large in scale.  The exactitude of Lewis' playing, and his control, hint at why his Op 106 is so good.  The disc closes with D946.  Lewis strips out any hints of sentimentality and plays fast and just shy of relentlessly much of the time.  The effect is most noticeable in the faster sections of the Allegretto.  This is the antithesis of playing displayed by the likes of Sokolov or Kars.  That written, Lewis does play the slower music of the movement with not a little beauty.  Given Lewis' approach, the set is more or less in line with expectations.  Good stuff.

Pity about the too resonant sound. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on April 14, 2016, 06:35:53 AM
Neither Andsnes or Lewis float my boat in 850, they are inclined to be  a bit too fast and furious, and I'm just not interested in that sort of thing. Of the two I probably prefer Lewis, partly because I like his tone. And because when he's fast, he's very very fast.

The only 850 I really enjoy these days is Lilya Zilberstein's, on DG. Her approach is completely different, and for me it was a real revelation.

Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 17, 2016, 05:10:41 AM
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My first sampling of the pianism of Matthias Kirschnereit.  His Berlin Classics Schubert disc contains two big works – the D845 sonata and the Wanderer Fantasie – as well as five smaller works.  The disc opens with the Hungarian Melody D817, and right out of the gate the distant sound and bright and occasionally flinty upper registers, combined with a springy legato-lite style, isn't nearly as much to my liking as Schiff or Fray.  The D606 March and D593/1 Scherzo sound similar in style.  Then comes D845.  The Allegro is often kind of flat.  It's not especially lyrical or beautiful, nor is it particularly aggressive, and the sound hampers the louder passages, which sound flinty in the right hand and a bit lacking in heft in the left.  The Adagio also lacks lyricism, and only in the loudest passages is the intensity of note.  The Scherzo and Rondo both sound stylistically similar to the first movement.  The Andante D29 does end up sounding reasonably attractive, and makes way for a Wanderer Fantasie that is mostly about speed and at least a degree of intensity.  Some phrases sound a bit clunky here and there, but it is OK+ in quality.  The Allegretto D915 makes a nice enough ending to the disc.  So, not so hot sound, sometimes flat playing, sometimes OK+ playing.   Kirschnereit certainly can play the music, but his approach just doesn't work for me.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: GioCar on April 20, 2016, 03:27:10 AM
Hello everybody, I'm new here and since I'm rediscovering Schubert I'd like to start with a simple question.

Any opinions on the recent Schubert by Barenboim?

(http://www.gramophone.co.uk/sites/default/files/styles/6_columns_wide/public/media-thumbnails/schubert_piano_sonatas_0.jpg?itok=DoxKfEvt)

Particularly I've been blown away by his performance of the A minor sonata, D784
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Brian on April 25, 2016, 05:29:25 AM
Why are we not all living in London so we can go see Krystian Zimerman do D. 959 and D. 960 tomorrow with an encore of Szymanowski mazurkas.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on April 25, 2016, 07:16:56 AM
Why are we not all living in London so we can go see Krystian Zimerman do D. 959 and D. 960 tomorrow with an encore of Szymanowski mazurkas.

Thank you, I have just booked my ticket. (I have a recording of him playing this stuff somewhere earlier this month, and despite bad sound I can tell it is a fine performance.)
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on April 26, 2016, 12:49:03 PM
Why are we not all living in London so we can go see Krystian Zimerman do D. 959 and D. 960 tomorrow with an encore of Szymanowski mazurkas.

The high point was 960/ii. 959/i had a lot of drive forward - like goal directed Beethoven. 960/i had one or two special things at the micro level, voices brought out. Mostly the impression in the Schubert was of great virtuosity. And just the right light touch in the third movements.

His piano (what is it? Is it some sort of one-off he commissioned?) is well balanced. I thought to myself that so much of what he does (when it comes off) is about sound, beautiful sound, that I understand why he doesn't want recordings.

Lots of empty seats. The Uchida fans boycotted I think.

Lots of people texting during 959; not at all in 960. I thought to myself that 960 is much better music.

His way of playing is  cool most of the time, so the impression is just of great skill and lovely sound. Very nice and impressive, but a bit limited from the point of view of interpretation.   But when he goes deeper into the expressive  possibilities  of the music, it is really special.

The Szymanowski nocturnes and encores did nothing for me I'm afraid. Not my sort of music.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 26, 2016, 03:43:47 PM
His piano (what is it? Is it some sort of one-off he commissioned?) is well balanced.


I believe he uses Fabbrini modified Steinways and travels with his own piano(s). 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Florestan on April 26, 2016, 11:07:10 PM
Lots of people texting during 959

Hang´em, I say!
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on October 27, 2016, 07:40:19 AM
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After having heard a fair number of recordings by Steven Osborne, I have come to see his style as what I'll call museum quality piano playing.  He never puts a wrong foot forward.  Everything is meticulously played.  His recordings have a sheen of perfection about them, and they practically yell, or at least politely proclaim, this is classical music.  Yet something is held back.  There's a reserve, a detachment to his playing.  His style, for me, pays huge dividends in Ravel, and works quite well in Messiaen, too, but in Debussy, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven, there's a sense of things being a bit too smoothed over and constrained.  The limitations are only evident if I opt to compare him to other pianists, and even then it is only the interpretation that I may have concerns about – if ''concerns'' they be.

I didn't come to his Schubert with trepidation.  I came to it with eagerness.  My eagerness was rewarded.  For the most part.  The disc opens with D935, and all four impromptus sound unfailingly beautiful, though not lush and warm in the manner of Lifits, but rather polished, bright, and colorful.  And the melodies are the thing here.  Not to take anything away from Osborne's rock-solid left hand playing in terms of steadiness or clarity, but time and again on this disc, the right hand playing mesmerized me.  His gentle dynamic gradations at the quieter end of the spectrum are glorious, and when the music should sing, it does.  The great A flat major Impromptu, surely one of Schubert's greatest pieces, may (?) lack the intensity or deepest depths of some other versions, but it is so steady, so precise, and so controlled as to demand absolute focus from the listener.  The melodies in the F minor Impromptu offer aural bliss.  D946 starts off with a somewhat vigorously paced Allegro assai, which nonetheless remains lovely throughout.  The Allegretto is lovelier yet, if perhaps lacking the otherworldliness of Kars or experiential depth of Paik.  The Allegro is lyrical and the coda packs something of a punch.  It is not dark, heavy, brooding ''late'' Schubert, but it is effective on its own terms.  The disc ends with D576, Variations on a theme by Anselm Huttenbrenner, a piece I'm not even sure I've heard before (I'd have to check my collection).  It is a most enjoyable piece, if not a grand set of variations.

Listening, I sensed that museum quality feel to the playing throughout.  It lacks that something special that, just sticking to this thread, Fray or Lifits brings.  But that is observation more than criticism.  This is an extremely fine disc, and one of Osborne's better outings.  I certainly would not object if he recorded more Schubert.  And I'd really like to hear him in person.

SOTA sound.

I think this is a pretty fair assessment of what I hear in the recording too. He makes me think of Leonhardt,  in that there's a sense of abandon of self that you hear in Leonhardt's later recordings:  performer's ego is abandoned. And there's the same expressive control which makes the music sound almost abstract - abstracted from this musician's and composer's feelings, it becomes an account of something more generally humane. Am I talking rubbish?

Anyway good disc. When I first came across Osborne in the 1980s I was very impressed, but less so by the intervening performances, including his Schubert sonatas. This recording makes me think he's finally finding his own voice, his  genius is starting to flourish. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on January 27, 2017, 08:43:09 AM
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Tristan Pfaff, a young pianist new to my collection.  This Schubert disc was recorded in 2012 and released in 2013, when Pfaff was still in his twenties, and that's only important in so far as this is a young man's Schubert.  The opening movement of D894 is played at a very brisk 16'03", and while Pfaff has no problem playing with attractive lyricism, it can sound rushed.  Combined with a relative lack of low register heft, and it sounds a bit light, superficial almost.  Both the Andante, and moreso the outer sections of the Menuetto, are pushed to the point that the music borders on the aggresive, though the middle section of the Menuetto is lovely.  The also rushed Allegro sounds a bit more playful and rythmically bouncy than common.  Overall, decent, but not great.

The Wanderer Fantasie follows.  Pfaff's is very much a high-speed, high-energy, virtuosic take.  It sounds as though he relishes the knottiest passages and he blazes through almost the whole work.  It's certainly superficially exciting, and I think it would work pretty well in recital, but a bit less so on disc.  The Carl Tausig arrangement of the Marche Militaire No 1 makes for a fine, high energy encore, and it certainly seems like one.

Sound is very clear and clean, with a few pedal stomps (in louder sections) and damper mechanism movements (in quieter music) audible throughout.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on March 31, 2017, 12:35:06 PM
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With this disc of Impromptus and a few small pieces, Endres joins Michel Dalberto in the ultra-complete, super-deluxe Schubert set sweepstakes.  All of Endres' standard traits are on display here, though this recording finds him playing with some notable power at times.  Much of the playing is lyrical and beautiful as all get out, as befits the music.  A lovely disc in SOTA sound.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Ken B on March 31, 2017, 05:33:13 PM
An exemplary review of the Naxos Schubert complete lieder.

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=652031 (http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=652031)

See the SDCB thread for the sale at jpc, and Amazon de
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 02, 2017, 09:55:53 AM
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I enjoyed Philippe Bianconi's Debussy Preludes enough to try something else.  I found a used copy of some solo Schubert for under three bucks and decided to give it a try.  A lucky grab.  Bianconi's Debussy is excellent, but this sole solo Schubert disc is better in every way.  First, obviously, is sound, which typical for Lyrinx, is SOTA, even almost two decades after its recording.  The piano tone is flawless, dynamics are flawless, reverb is natural and flawless.  This allows the listener to enjoy the perfect blend of tonal luxuriance and power that Bianconi brings to the music.

The disc opens with D959.  The first movement is no wimpy version, but things never sound hard when Bianconi hammers out the loud passages.  The second movement is almost daringly slow in the outer sections, with the musical line not only never broken, but tense even in slow motion.  The middle section is more energetic, as is the third movement.  The final movement emphasizes lyrical beauty, but never sounds mushy.  This is an extremely fine version.  Maybe it's not quite at the Kovacevich or Brendel level, but it's not far behind.

D946 follows, and the warmth, lyricism, and never too hard loud playing, combined with deft tempo selections pays dividends.  The opening movement moves back and forth between energetic playing and almost purely beautiful playing to good effect.  The second movement sounds rich and darker, and Bianconi imparts a sense of urgency to some of the playing, and the third movement is peppy and tuneful in just about perfect proportion.  As with D959, there are some mighty rivals out there - Sokolov, Paik, Pollini, and Kars for the otherworldly two-thirds he recorded, especially the second movement - but Bianconi runs with the rest of the pack.

A superb disc.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 23, 2017, 10:41:03 AM
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Sheila Arnold is new to me.  Prior to seeing this disc listed a few months back, I'd never even seen her name, and until I spun this disc, I'd heard nary a note of her playing.  I'm glad that has been corrected.  Indian-born, German-raised and domiciled Arnold's Schubert is, to use a word I generally dislike using, among the most balanced I've heard.  By balanced I mean that Arnold plays with near unfailing beauty, but she also plays with tension, angst, sorrow, and joy in basically perfect measure, and she manages to play with both attention to fine detail and maintain a big picture arc for everything simultaneously.  One needn't proceed beyond the first Impromptu to hear this.  Arnold plays beautifully, but the dotted left hand rhythm is insistent and nervous.  Her dynamics are simply outstanding, with notably varied volumes between hands.  In the opening of the second Impromptu, for instance, the left hand remains steady while the right hand soars and undulates.  That's not to say she lets melody dominate unduly, because she does not; when melody dominates, it duly dominates. In the great D894 sonata, Arnold opts for a broad, just shy of twenty minute opening movement.  She keeps the music moving forward at all times, even when she slows to near static pace, and in a few places, her right hand playing almost magically emphasizes some individual notes while still presenting a balanced whole.  She plays with some real power, and if she can't rattle the walls like Lifits, she's no slouch in this area, and her cantabile playing is just gorgeous.  Arnold condenses these traits in the Andante, which, while not at all rushed, mixes gentle beauty and biting urgency.  She then ratchets things up a bit more for the Menuetto.  Arnold ends the sonata with a rhytmically bouyant, forceful but not harsh, and beautiful but not soft Allegretto.  It's perfectly balanced. 

Sound is slightly more distant and resonant than I typically prefer, but otherwise is SOTA and contributes to the success of this disc.

This disc is a real find.  I feel compelled to try more of Ms Arnold's playing.  This is the best new Schubert I've heard since the discs from David Fray and Michail Lifits, though Arnold is decidedly different from both. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on May 05, 2017, 06:15:22 AM
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[This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion thread.]


Ran Jia's major label debut.  Who is Ran Jia, you ask?  She's a twenty-seven year old pupil of Gary Graffman, and daughter of composer Jia Daqun.  She appears to have a thing for the music of Schubert.  Her first, non-major label recording was of the D664 and D960 sonatas, and just a couple months back (March 2017 as of the time of writing), she presented a Schubert cycle for her Berlin debut.  Somewhat like with Hideyo Harada's disc, I sort of judged a book by its cover, and foolishly assumed from the glamour shot on the cover, and the other glamour shots in the booklet, that Ms Jia would play soft and tender.  Nope.  Fortunately, I enjoy her playing more than Harada's. 

The disc opens with D958.  It's evident that slow, deeply contemplative Schubert is not Jia's style.  She plays with more speed and grit.  Her Schubert is harder, though her playing can be quite beautiful at times.  It's close to a steel fist in a velvet glove approach.  Let's say anodized aluminum in comfy suede for Jia.  And as Jia demonstrates in the Adagio, she can belt out forte chords rather well.  The bass registers don't dominate or anything, but sometimes they really rumble.  The tense, almost jittery speed is most evident in the outer movements, and she seems to be in something of a hurry to finish the Allegro - to excellent effect.  She takes the time througout the work to pay some attention to details, as with the wonderful, extended right hand run in the opening, but this is a hard, cool, modern-classical hybrid approach.  Good stuff. 

So, too, is D845.  And unsurprisingly, it is of the quick, tense, almost angry variety.  It doesn't have the power of Lupu or the intensity of Gulda, but the opening movement moves forward at all times.  Jia does slow down as appropriate, but these passages seem like respites before revving back up.  The Andante poco mosso is plucky - and tense.  The way she dashes off right hand figurations throughout is most captivating, and the slower music is dark, 'late' Schubert.  The tense feel permeates the Scherzo, too, with Jia rushing through some transitions - again, to excellent effect.  The propulsive Rondo wraps up some fine Schubert.  Here's a D845 that offers a pretty strong contrast to the equally compelling but very different take from Michail Lifits, to stick with other young(-ish) pianists offering some fine, modern Schubert. 

The disc concludes with three Preludes for Piano by the pianist's father.  The brief pieces are decidedly post-war modern works.  Some knotty, chord-heavy writing interspersed with some attractive melodic content, not least in the Homage to Schubert, which derives from D845, and some brief, sparse passages make me rather wish more than three short pieces were included.  If Jia were to devote an entire disc to her father's output, I'd give it a shot.

Sound is very good, but somewhat problematic.  It's not ideally clear by contemporary standards, and it's as though the engineers couldn't capture Jia's dynamic range properly, so the slightly distant recording checks most but not all sonic boxes.  The disc sounds slightly better through headphones, but the same issues persist no matter the transducer type used.

I will keep an eye on this pianist, and when she records D894, I will buy with alacrity.  Maybe she can record some Schoenberg or Prokofiev or Ligeti or Schnittke while she's at it.

Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on May 29, 2017, 06:06:04 AM
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[This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion thread]


A half-dozen Schubert sonatas from Julius-Jeongwon Kim.  Mr Kim is a former child prodigy turned professor and performing musician who, in 2012, gave the second performance of Rachmaninoff's Fifth Piano Concerto before making the first recording for Deutsche Grammophon.  The Fifth?  It's a reworking of the Second Symphony by Alexander Warenberg done at the request of the composer's grandson.  Earnest effort or something of a gimmick, Kim has one unique achievement under his belt.  He also made some other core rep recordings for EMI in prior years, so he's been around the block, as most forty-somethings have.

On to the recordings at hand.  The first disc of the trio contains D157 and D894, meaning that my first exposure to Kim matches up in terms of repertoire, sans a small encore, to one of my favorite Schubert discs of the century so far, Arcadi Volodos' Schubert disc.  While I really didn't expect Kim to match Volodos, and if ultimately he doesn't, there is much to enjoy in the first disc.  D157 starts off somewhat haltingly, with clipped chords and phrase endings, but once the Allegro ma non troppo moves into the more flowing music, Kim plays with nice drive, lyricism, and scale, and his melody is both lovely and almost eerily precise.  The Andante displays some of the same style of playing, and comes off as decidedly and purposely unsentimental, and nearly cold, and Kim plays this way until about five minutes in, and then, bam, biting forte chords assault the listener's ear to surprising and convincing effect.  Kim then plays the concluding Menuetto briskly and unsentimentally.  It's certainly possible to play with a bit more lyricism, but the overall conception works.  The great D894 follows.  Here, Kim faced not only long-standing memories of Volodos, but also fresher memories of Sheila Arnold.  Kim's starts off with an eighteen minute Molto moderato e cantabile, yet given the length, the tension of his playing makes it seem quicker than that, and again it sounds unsentimental.  His tone is attractive, but it is possible to say the playing is not the most lyrical or endearing, though Kim's style has it's own appeal.  He also keeps dynamics somewhat under wraps, never really thundering out forte passages like Arnold, let alone Michail Lifits.  Again, it's another way to play, and I hasten to add that Kim does not sound at all small-scaled; it seems more about control.  The Andante sounds both tonally pleasing and musically severe, with Kim playing with a controlled tempo, and here he ratchets up the volume of the loudest playing more so than in the opening movement.  He sort of shifts the center of the work to the second movement, something I've heard many times in D960, but rarely in this work.  The Menuetto remains contained and controlled, and dynamic contrasts are nicely pronounced, with Kim playing aggressively at times.  Kim finally lightens up a bit in the Allegretto.  While not slight or wispy, it seems a smidge sunnier and definitely more lyrical than the preceding movements.  Overall, if the playing lacks Volodos' even more marked command, and Arnold's balanced magic, Kim's take is excellent in a very serious sort of way.

The second disc contains D568 and D664, opening with the former.  The sound seems a bit brighter, more metallic, and slightly more distant.  Kim's playing in the opening Allegro moderato is all about nearly relentless forward drive and energy, and while not especially lyrical, Kim does keep the playing attractive before moving onto a tense Andante molto characterized more by insistent left hand playing than beautiful melody.  The Menuetto, especially in the trio, sounds a bit more lyrical, but never strays far from the tenser overall conception.  Same with the concluding Allegro moderato.  Generally, I prefer D664 to be very lyrical, though there are exceptions.  Kim does indeed play the piece more lyrically than D568, but he maintains a nice degree of tension and plays with some heft as appropriate in the opening Allegro moderato.  He goes one better and plays the Andante in unabashedly beautiful and lyrical fashion, with hints of gentle urgency and an approximation of melancholy.  The concluding Allegro starts off similarly, but quickly finds Kim playing with significant scale and power, though he keeps the tempo steady and just about right overall. 

The final disc contains D557 and D958.  Sonics are more like the second disc, leading me to think the final two discs were recorded at the same sessions, though I could obviously be wrong.  Anyway, D557 sounds brisk, crisp, and clear, with incisive staccato playing and light pedaling.  The playing displays hints of lyricism, but is more about drive and bite, at least in the first two movement.  Kim does lighten up just a bit in overall mood, if not entirely in delivery, in the Allegro, though even here the middle section is fiery and intense, almost an early test-run for D784.  D958 ends the set.  Kim's set arrived shortly after Ran Jia's superb Schubert single disc, and I decided to give her take a listen a couple hours before my first listen to Kim's take.  Kim's tempi are slightly slower than Jia's in all movements but the Menuetto, but that doesn't stop Kim from launching the first movement with an at times intense, loud opener.  Kim builds to satisfyingly loud, sharp forte playing with more apparent overall power than Jia, though the lower registers are comparatively light.  His rhythmic drive is superb, too, and when he backs off, there's a bit more of a contrast than with Jia, who sounds more tense throughout.  Kim's approach stays the same in the hard-hitting Andante poco mosso.  Indeed, more than in D557, the playing here makes me want to hear what he might do with D784.  Kim keeps up the almost aggressive, at times stingingly metallic approach right on through to the end, with the Rondo almost enough to grind down listeners more accustomed to more lyrical Schubert.  In some ways, Kim's take is more involved and involving than Jia's, but on the flip-side, Jia adds more unique touches.  Advantage Jia, but Kim ends on a strong note.

Overall, Kim's Schubert comes across as intellectual, serious, maybe a bit grim, though when he arrives at one of the 'late' sonatas, he adds real intensity and drive to the mix.  In this regard, he reminds me of Paul Lewis.  Hopefully, he records more Schubert, because I wouldn't mind at all hearing how he handles D845, D850, and, of course, D960, but if this threefer ends up being it, it's a good set to have.  (Here I refer to studio recordings, of course, because D845 is on YouTube, along with other works.)  I wouldn't mind hearing more from Kim outside of Schubert, either.  I think he could deliver some fine Brahms, and more serious fare from the 20th Century might also sound quite good.  Oh, and I wouldn't mind if he recorded some Beethoven.

Sonics for this strictly Korean market release are a bit resonant but superb, though I found I had to listen slightly louder than normal to get the piano to sound as natural as possible.  In an unusual step for me, I listened to this set first in my main rig which is situated in a small, but dedicated and quasi-treated stereo room and then in my 2.1 channel home theater situated in a much larger room.  I cranked the volume in the large space, and the sound seemed more natural and, as recorded, Kim plays with a big sonority. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 06, 2017, 04:31:08 AM
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Another artist new to me, Dutch pianist See Siang Wong has been recording for years, and he also does the teaching thing, in his case at the Zurich University of the Arts.  That helps explain why his releases originate from the Swiss divisions of the majors, previously Decca and now RCA.  He's also got some Guild and other indie releases out there.

This Schubert disc was recorded for RCA in 2012.  Wong's playing is, as is generally the case with major label pianists nowadays, technically secure throughout.  Never does one have to worry about him struggling to play his conceptions.  His conceptions here focus on two main components: beauty and strength.  Wong never produces an ugly tone on the disc, and he manages to play with noticeable oomph; while beautiful, these are not gentle and tender renditions of the works on offer.  Faster passages usually sound nicely vigorous.  What seems to be missing is great depth or darkness or anguish, or even significant hints of them.  I can't say that the playing is cold, but it's sort of held at arm's length, and while Wong never unduly rushes anything (the A flat Impromptu comes close, though), he doesn't sound too keen on wallowing in Schubert's writing.  This works very well in the Allegretto, but much less so in the Impromptus, which sound almost as studied as Michelangeli's Schubert.  The single German Dance is expertly played, but whizzes by leaving no imprint.  Wong plays the Allegro moderato of D664 at just about the maximum speed it can be played without being ruined until the lovely and restrained coda.  Wong plays the Andante at a more comfortable pace, but it sounds detached, as does the Allegro, which also displays comparatively limited rhythmic verve.  The Hungarian Melody closer sounds a bit more forceful than ideal.  So, this well played disc is not what I generally or specifically prefer when listening to Schubert.

Perusing Wong's discography, my attention is drawn mostly to his Schumann outing with Carnaval.  Maybe one day I will find out what it's like.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on September 06, 2017, 04:43:50 AM
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[This will be cross-posted in The Italian Invasion]

Michelanagelo Carbonara is a thirty-something pianist born in Italy who studied at both the Santa Cecilia Conservatory and Academy, won or placed in over a dozen competitions, and worked with a variety of more famous names in master classes and the like.  He has done the touring thing, of course, and records mostly for Brilliant Classics, under both the Brilliant and Piano Classics imprints.  This is the first time I've heard anything from him.

The disc opens with D157.  Carbonara's approach in the opening Allegro ma non troppo is direct and unaffected, light and charming, lyrical and clear.  So far, so good, if a bit unmemorable.  The slow Andante contains more pronounced Schubertian lyricism and melancholy, without overdoing it, with left hand playing that sounds both full and light.  Carbonara finishes the sonata off with a quick, cleanly articulated Menuetto.  It sounds quasi-rushed and more stormy-lite than light.  A good start.

D664 follows, and Carbonara goes for endless, flowing lyricism in the Allegro moderato, playing some of the upper register music in a slightly precious way.  Sound is tilted to the middle and upper registers, though that doesn't matter much here.  The Andante is played even more beautifully and delicately than the opener.  The bass-light sound makes the music sort of float, and the very narrow dynamic range makes it fall softly on the ear.  Carbonara then ends with an Allegro that remains lyrical and includes approximations of more robust playing, the bass-light sound depriving the music of oomph, though here, in this sonata, that's not a major detriment.  Indeed, it's an excellent performance, one worthy on inclusion in a shootout, and the best thing on the disc.

D845 closes out the disc.  I tend to prefer an edgier, more intense approach to this sonata, though there are obvious exceptions (eg, Michail Lifits.)  Carbonara's approach is somewhat similar to Lifits in some ways.  He never rushes the Moderato, which is good, and some of the playing is very small-scale, very intimate.  Large dynamic swings sound medium-sized here, and a sense of mystery permeates much of the playing.  The Andante is slow and delicate and deliberate and intimate.  It's drawing room, Schubertiade Schubert, and strikingly effective.  The Scherzo is just about perfectly paced and a bit more robust than the first two movements, but it is still restrained, and the Trio is just gorgeous.  Carbonara closes out with a Rondo that alternates between vigorous passages and gentler passages quite nicely.  Like Lifits, he makes a strong case for a less intense reading of this sonata, though it lacks that some extra that Lifits brings.

Per Carbonara's site, he has all of Schubert's sonatas in his repertoire.  Even if the sonatas are not first choices for me, they are all excellent, and they are all purposely more intimately scaled than normal, though this trait is more obvious through speakers than headphones, strangely enough.  I wouldn't mind hearing a few more at some point.

Sound is close and dry and bass-light, with some pedal stomps audible here and there.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on September 13, 2017, 04:22:54 AM
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American born and educated, having trained with Serkin and Frank and Horszowski while at home, David Levine lived in Germany for most of his career.  He appears to have specialized in more modern repertoire, recorded a slim discography, and he died at age forty-four.  Notably, Fazil Say was one of his students.  This Schubert recording from 1992 was his last.

The disc opens with D959.  Levine omits the repeat in the Allegro and plays it straight to the point of making it sound Plain Jane.  There's nothing wrong with it, sonics apart, it's just that there's nothing memorable about it.  The Andantino works slightly better.  Levine plays it with a very steady pulse and the effect of the music sort of becomes cumulative in the outer sections, which sound lyrical but dreary, and the middle section is more driven but the basically nonexistent dynamic range of the recording robs the playing of its power.  Levine then darts through the Scherzo in the outer sections, though he plays more conventionally in the trio.  The outer sections are marginally jarring when compared to the opening two movements, and hint at some more intense possibilities.  The concluding Rondo is mostly unaffected, swift, and lyrical, though Levine does play with more speed and intensity in the middle section.  Overall, the Scherzo aside, not much really stands out.

Levine's playing in the opening Molto Moderato of D960 sounds very slow, which can be just fine, but his playing doesn't hold the music together very well.  It just sounds slow.  And then the trills are anemic, and the melody uneven after that.  Only after over two minutes in does Levine finally impart something more vibrant, but it fades away.  The longer the movement goes on, the longer it seems, which is the opposite of great recordings of this movement.  Levine ends up making the Andante sostenuto the heart of the work.  The musical line flows smoothly, the mood is solemn and despondent, the middle section is suitably intense, but not too much so.  Then, like in D959, Levine plays the Scherzo notably faster than the preceding movements might indicate, though the middle section is slow and a bit stiff.  Levine ends with a quick Allegro ma troppo, and he plays the middle section with what sounds like a nice degree of strength, though the recording mutes the impact somewhat.  While there are some things to like, the recording is not one of the better ones I've heard.

Whenever I pick up a disc of Schubert's "late" sonatas, I always hope that the disc is one of the best I've heard.  Obviously, that's not the case in general, and it is not here.  This disc just does not work for me at all.  YMMV.

Sound is poor for its early 90s vintage.  Small, boxy, dynamically constricted, midrange dominated, with a nearly constant dull glare, it is far from ideal.  Levine deserved better.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on September 15, 2017, 05:04:51 AM
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Here's something that at least some piano music fans have waited many moons for: a full length disc of solo piano music by Krystian Zimerman.  It's Germanic core rep.  It's Schubert.  Oh, yes, please. 

Out of the gate, it's clear that Zimerman isn't shy about projecting his sound in this recording.  D959 starts with a robust Allegro.  Zimerman's forte playing is potent, but his touch remains nuanced and supremely controlled, aided by his customized piano.  Once the music starts, it never really lets up in terms of forward momentum.  At times, the playing almost soars more than sings, but sing it does, in a full-throated, heldentenor sort of way; this is more opera than introspective lieder.  Of course, with Zimerman, his command of voicing is supreme, and his ability to deliver accompaniment of unerring insistence or melody of exquisite lyricism is never in doubt for even one semiquaver.  In the Andantino, the first appearance of the first theme is solemn and lamenting, and almost evokes a perfect Winterreise sound, with the left hand the lonely accompanist and the right hand the forlorn singer.  The second theme transitions into a stormy fantasia, building up to thundering, nearly ear-splitting fortissimo playing that nonetheless never sounds ugly. He goes past even someone like Michel Dalberto in terms of power but never loses poise.  He plays with pneumatic steel fingers encased in the softest velvet gloves.  The second appearance of the first theme is more resigned and terse than in the beginning.  The Scherzo is beautifully pointed, rhythmically alert, and energetic, but it's sort of serious-light music in the outer sections, and almost just serious music in the middle section.  Finally, in the Rondo, Zimerman adopts a gentler, flowing sound, though even here it is projected.  It's like prime age Horowitz in that way, but, you know, good.  The development section and the coda find Zimerman playing with near full strength again, to riveting effect.  Superb.

D960 kicks off with a twenty minute and change Molto Moderato, yet even given its length it starts off sounding a bit quick, though flowing.  It's not especially dark as far as opening movements can go, and the first bass trill is somewhat small in scale and matter of fact.  As the movement continues, the playing imperceptibly changes.  Lyricism remains, but dark clouds gather.  Zimerman builds up tension until releasing it with a much more powerful second bass trill followed by a perfectly judged pause. The playing then takes on something of a sense of urgency rather than darkness.  Occasionally, during the development, one almost gets the sense that Zimerman is so enamored of the details, which he makes sure to present as pristinely as any human can, that the long arc of the movement gets lost.  Thing is, it doesn't.  It's sort of like the best of both the detail-oriented and architectural approaches, at least in some ways.  In my listening experience, interpreters tend to either focus on the first movement or the second (the second usually becoming the focus if the first movement repeat is omitted), and given Zimerman's take on the opening movement, that would have seemed to be the focus, but his playing in the Andante sostenuto calls that into question.  It largely possesses the darker, more solemn feel often experienced in the first movement, especially in the middle section.  Zimerman's playing is not always the most moving, but here it is.  It's just fabulous.  It almost makes the listener wish the sonata were structured like the B minor symphony.  The Scherzo offers a comparatively light and breezy contrast to the prior movement, with beautiful sound after beautiful sound emanating from the piano.  The Allegro ma nan troppo opens with a terse octave displaying the effect of the modified keyboard, which is repeated every time it occurs.  Zimerman plays the movement fairly quickly and in rather potent fashion, again projecting outward more than looking inward.  The tonal beauty and great flow more than offset that for me, but not everyone will agree.  Superb.  Again.

How do these versions stack up to the many other versions of both works out there?  Very well, indeed, but I don't know if I can say that Zimerman sets the standard for either sonata.  But then, that's sort of beside the point at this level.  There is no standard so much as there are great recordings.  Zimerman's Schubert is Zimerman's Schubert.  There's nothing else exactly like it, and even if one has quibbles with it, it is formidable, to say the least.  Zimerman's Schubert deserves to be compared against only the very best, and though my listening plans don't really have time for that, I just may end up doing it anyway.  I will write that one thing I do know is that in D959, in particular, Arcadi Volodos is out there now, playing it in recital, with a less than ideal pirated copy available on YouTube.  For those who might find Zimerman too assertive, almost aggressive, and not introspective enough, Volodos' darker poetry could be the ticket, if he ever decides to record it officially.  (The online comments and reviews have generally been highly laudatory, and even if one discounts them as too favorable due to a sort of rush from hearing them live, I have every reason to believe that the Russian can deliver a recorded D959 for the ages.) 

SOTA sound, but it's a bit different than normal.  Zimerman's customized piano, with a modified keyboard added to a normal (presumably Fabrinni) Steinway sounds magnificent.  The decays are typically quick, the sound clean and lovely and not as imposing or metallic as evident in even some other recordings by the pianist.  The tonal qualities are quite ear-catching.  The closest recent recorded equivalent in my experience is Roberto Prosseda's Mozart sonata twofer, where he uses a Fazioli tuned using Valloti unequal temperament.  The sound here is not quite that different from a Steinway, but it's obvious Zimerman had his piano tweaked to achieve a very specific sound.  Zimerman's breathing and vocalizing can frequently be heard, as can damper mechanism noise.  It's all just part of the fun.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on March 25, 2018, 05:14:24 AM
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Emmanueal Strosser as a pianist is not new to me, though he is as soloist.  Up to now, I've heard only his superb work as part of the outstanding Trio Owon in their world class set of Beethoven's Piano Trios, which, pending a shoot-out with the Oliver Schynder Trio, is my current favorite set.  In short, he's got the education and experience of a world-class pianist.

This Schubert disc opens with D960.  Strosser goes for the repeat and a measured approach in the Molto moderato, bringing it in at 19'41".  That somewhat masks the stylistic contrasts within the movement.  While it certainly starts slow and subdued, and Strosser reverts to this style as needed, there's also a tense, speedier feel to some of the music.  While Strosser doesn't plumb the depths in the manner of some pianists, he does infuse the playing with some gravitas, in the practical form of nice dynamic contrasts and the occasional really long pause.  Strosser strikes a nice balance in his playing, avoiding the too portentous and the too sweetly lyrical, with a sort of appealing emotional distance.  Despite the length and scale of the opener, Strosser makes the Andante sostenuto the heart of the work.  Still not too emotive, the pianist sounds more engaged, not least through the increased vocalization, and though played at a measured overall tempo, Strosser again knows how and when to speed up a bit, and when to ratchet up the intensity.  The Scherzo and closing movement are both much lighter in feel and clean in execution, with the closing movement displaying fine articulation and clarity and some thundering fortissimo playing, making for a more strongly characterized than normal conclusion.  Nice. 

In D946, Strosser starts the first piece off in both lyrical and relentlessly forward driven style.  He never plays too hard; instead, he infuses the music with heft.  Two accentuated chords announce the arrival of the first slower section in nearly melodramatic fashion, and if the execution lacks the ultimate polish of Sokolov or near mysticism of Kars, it still works very well, indeed.  The second slow section, well-executed, sounds disjointed and almost formless in places.  Clearly, this is what Strosser wants to convey, but I'm not sold on it.  Strosser then plays the second piece with a mix of approaches, from dark and somewhat heavy, to thundering, to rushed yet lyrical (with some hefty vocalizing in one spot).  It's always fully engaged, and unfolds like a sort of fantasia, with personalized rubato amplifying the effect.  The short, mostly very brisk Allegro makes for a largely energetic closer, though more than in some other versions, one gets the sense that this is not really related to the first two pieces at all.  That's just fine.

Overall, this is a very fine Schubert disc.  The D960 is less emotive and interventionist than other renditions, but is very well done, whereas the pianist allows himself more liberties in D946, almost always to superb effect.  This is not a must have, but it's certainly wonderful to have.  First-rate production values.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on March 25, 2018, 06:43:51 AM
Strosser has recorded some exceptional Debussy with Veronique Dietschy, I have a French friend who is finiky about Debussy, she put me on to it, and she was right to do so. The Schubert sounds rather good to me, I find myself attracted to the sobriety of it, next time I'm in the mood I'll listen properly.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 01, 2018, 04:11:52 AM
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Penelope Crawford's two discs of late LvB sonatas rate among my favorite HIP Beethoven recordings, so when I saw this disc with her as accompanist for Martha Guth in a selection of Schubert songs for a few bucks, I snapped it up.  The conceit for the disc is to explore how Schubert wrote lieder where the subject is a woman, as performed by women.  The learned and lengthy liner notes were also written by a woman, though I'm not sure the brief mention of Goebbels adds much value.  So far, so good, except the Goebbels part.  Unfortunately, the conceit is better than the execution.  One of the highlights of Crawford's two LvB discs in the SOTA sound, allowing one to hear every little bit of sound produced by her instrument.  The sound of the keyboard here is more distant and opaque, partly because the singer has to be captured.  Sound is very good, it's just not great.  The same can almost be said about the performances.  I tend to prefer my Schubert lyrical, though I also fancy some hard-hitting Schubert, and fortepiano just can't deliver the goods like a modern grand.  As to singers, when I listen to Schubert lieder, I tend to listen to male singers, which is unusual since I definitely prefer the sound of women's voices.  This disc more or less reinforces my existing preferences.  It's not that Guth is bad, though she's not in the same class as Christine Schäfer, who can deliver some exceptional Schubert, it's just that her singing doesn't really work for me.  Even the slam-dunk famous pieces (Gretchen am Spinnrade and Ave Maria) are kind of ho-hum.  The disc has been ripped and boxed up, and I'll listen to it again some time in the future.  Or not.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Brian on April 07, 2018, 04:36:42 AM
Penelope Crawford's two discs of late LvB sonatas rate among my favorite HIP Beethoven recordings, so when I saw this disc with her as accompanist for Martha Guth in a selection of Schubert songs for a few bucks, I snapped it up.  The conceit for the disc is to explore how Schubert wrote lieder where the subject is a woman, as performed by women.  The learned and lengthy liner notes were also written by a woman, though I'm not sure the brief mention of Goebbels adds much value.  So far, so good, except the Goebbels part.  Unfortunately, the conceit is better than the execution.  One of the highlights of Crawford's two LvB discs in the SOTA sound, allowing one to hear every little bit of sound produced by her instrument.  The sound of the keyboard here is more distant and opaque, partly because the singer has to be captured.  Sound is very good, it's just not great.  The same can almost be said about the performances.  I tend to prefer my Schubert lyrical, though I also fancy some hard-hitting Schubert, and fortepiano just can't deliver the goods like a modern grand.  As to singers, when I listen to Schubert lieder, I tend to listen to male singers, which is unusual since I definitely prefer the sound of women's voices.  This disc more or less reinforces my existing preferences.  It's not that Guth is bad, though she's not in the same class as Christine Schäfer, who can deliver some exceptional Schubert, it's just that her singing doesn't really work for me.  Even the slam-dunk famous pieces (Gretchen am Spinnrade and Ave Maria) are kind of ho-hum.  The disc has been ripped and boxed up, and I'll listen to it again some time in the future.  Or not.

Perhaps of interest to you also:

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The booklet essay is only 3 pages long and does not mention any Nazis.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 08, 2018, 09:10:33 AM
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For a few bucks, I figured I could take a chance on Pavlos Hatzopoulos' Schubert disc on Hänssler from way back in the last century.  The German pianist has a thin discography, though a new title with Bach and Beethoven works was released just this year.  This disc contains two Schubert warhorses, the Wanderer Fantasie and D960.  It opens with D760.  Hatzopoulos plays it directly and seriously.  There's little poetry, but ample clean playing, sometimes with some heft.  He's especially adept at bringing out left hand details without making the lower registers dominate.  As the piece continues, the clean playing becomes the main attraction as lyricism or high levels of energy or even fantasy never really materialize.  Execution is good enough to make the approach work well enough to satisfy, even if it's not a Top Ten choice.

D960 starts with a repeatless, slightly quick, slightly tense Molto moderato that moves forward at a steady pace, displays more clean playing, and some nice bass trills, but otherwise is mostly characterized by unflinching directness.  The short opener shifts the center of the work to the Andante sostenuto, which under Hatzopoulos' fingers becomes more an Allegretto.  It's quick and tense in the outer sections, and completely devoid of sentimentality or sadness.  The middle section speeds things up even more, becoming agitated and agitating, in a good way.  The Scherzo is likewise swift, but that's far more common.  Hatzopoulos does maintain an admirable steadiness and clarity in his playing, though.  In contrast to the preceding movement, the concluding Allegro ma non troppo sounds a bit restrained tempo-wise, though it's really just fairly standard.  The clarity and steadiness are there, but it lacks the oomph of the inner movements, except in the coda.  Overall, like D760, there's enough to satisfy, but it's not one of the great recordings of the work and the disc is not essential.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 15, 2018, 04:23:04 AM
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I fancy PBS recordings.  His two LvB sonata cycles are very fine, the HIP cycle on Astrée, especially.  The other PBS recordings I have heard have all been good, though his HIP Schubert on Arcana shows the limitations of older keyboards in producing the lyrical Schubert style I prefer.  Others may very well be more taken by HIP Schubert, of course.  Anyway, since PBS is the only pianist to record Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert sonata cycles on both modern and period instruments, when this reissue of PBS’s RCA Schubert on modern grands became available, I thought I really ought to get it.

Disc one of the CD set is given over to the first disc of the second volume from LPs.  This shift in presentation allows for this set to be presented in Deutsch number order, with some duplicate recordings tacked on at the end of the set.  To the recordings: D157 opens with a light, crisp, very classical Allegro ma non troppo that mostly just sounds a bit clipped here or there but otherwise quite nice.  At least until the middle of the movement, when PBS aggressively ornaments the music to a degree I've not heard before - including in his later HIP set.  At first, it catches the listener off guard, but it works.  The Andante is fairly straightforward, and displays both lyricism and solemnity, though not too much of the latter, while the Menuetto is just a tad slow, but still works quite well.  D279, with a completion by PBS of D346 for the fourth movement, sound both lyrical and lightly dramatic, but rather than flowing with a lovely legato, PBS plays more staccato, making some passages a bit jagged, though fun.  The rest of the sonata stays quite light, and the completed D346 Allegretto melds well.  A very good start.

Disc two includes three sonatas: D459/D459A, D537, and D557.  In D459/D459A, PBS plays with more substance than the works on disc one, with an especially effective Adagio.  Better still is D537, which in the opening movement blends cheer and sorrow, two traits the pianist himself writes that he sees as part of Schubert's tone, and the blend makes the piece more late-ish Schubert than normal.  The second movement, slower and somber, still has a dance-like component to the playing, while the Allegro vivace largely alternates between more playful, scampering playing and more purely beautiful melodic playing.  PBS puts substantial interpretive meat on the musical bone in one of the best versions, and maybe the best version, I've heard.  D557 sounds flowing yet peppy, with hints of urgency to go with the intrinsic lyricism.  PBS elevates this little sonata a bit, too. 

Disc three.  D566 opens the disc, and it has the same serious and lyrical style displayed before, and a copious helping of pedal noise, which is uncommon for such old recordings.  The whole thing is very fine, but the Allegretto deserves special praise for its beautiful lyricism.  D568 follows.  PBS seems to make this sonata even more serious and "late" Schubert sounding.  To be sure, there's lyricism and lightness there where appropriate, but the playing just sounds more purposeful and serious, sort of like Brendel's approach, but better.  Once again, PBS really delivers in the slow movement, an Andante here.  The playing style would sound very much at home in something like D894. 

Disc four.  The disc opens with the D571/604/570 "sonata", with the outer movements completed by the pianist.  The opening movement sounds like a Liszt transcription of a Schubert lied - one of the good transcriptions.  Moody and melodic, it sounds splendid.  The other three movements seem more like early stand-alone piano pieces, not too surprisingly, and the work doesn't hold together especially well, but each movement works on its own.  D575 follows.  PBS keeps the piece light, clean, and lyrical throughout, but he imbues the whole thing with more of that late-ish style depth, and the final movement is exquisitely beautiful at times.  It's really quite excellent.  The disc ends with D612/613, with the outer movements finished by the pianist again, and the best is saved until last.  PBS plays with a light touch, and the music is bright and beautiful and precious and equal parts playful and eminently lyrical.  While PBS doesn't conjure late Schubert sound, there's something intensely alluring about the music and playing.  In this set, PBS is turning out to almost own the early sonatas – though Wilhelm Kempff prevents that in the end. 

Disc five.  This starts in on the real good stuff, namely the first of two recordings of D664, along with D784.  First, though, is D625/505.  Okay, this is good stuff, too, with Badura playing with slightly tamped down lyricism and slightly emphasized drama, again rendering the music sort of like a Liszt transcription of Schubert.  The concluding Allegro sounds like a pre-echo of the concluding movement of Chopin's Second Sonata.  PBS plays D664 more or less with endless lyrical beauty, with a bit of heft or forlornness tossed in for effect.  It works extremely well.  In the booklet notes, PBS writes that he considers D784 to be Schubert's creative reaction to the onset of his illness, and this translates to tense, agitated playing in the Allegro giusto, though the aged sound doesn't really allow for thundering dynamic range to really emphasize the underlying tumult.  The Andante is quick, lyrical, and a bit sad, while PBS ratchets up the intensity in the Allegro vivace, with slightly beefier fortissimo playing, though again the aged sound limits ultimate impact.  Still, this is an excellent version and caps off yet another fine disc.

Disc six.  It opens with D840, with PBS' completions of the third and fourth movements.  While the Moderato contains plenty of lyrical playing, it also displays ample agitated, almost angry playing, though as with D784, the dynamic range of the now aged recordings deprives the listener of some sonic impact that was obviously present in the playing.  Too, it takes on a sense of darkness and dreariness present in the great song cycles.  The Andante keeps the whole late lied feel to it, with a sense of tension to go with the lyricism.  The two completed movements work well enough, though the sonata sounds somewhat lopsided, with the weightier first two movements.  The first recording of D845 follows.  PBS opts for the fast, agitated, tense, biting approach in the opening movement, and the dynamic range of the recording helps out more here, and he comes as close as anyone I've heard to matching Friedrich Gulda in terms of intensity in the immoderate Moderato.  PBS backs way off in the opening of theme of the Andante, but he then reverts to a tenser, more biting style for some of the variations.  Both the Scherzo and Rondo go the unusually robust route, too, with a lyrical sense popping up at times in the Rondo, but this performance isn't really about that.  This is a great performance of this sonata.

Disc seven.  The first recording of D850 starts things off.  Coming right after a tense and fast D845, the somewhat more restrained, in terms of tempo, Allegro vivace requires a bit of adjustment - one bar, maybe two.  PBS doesn't skimp on dynamics and effective accents, though, that is sure, and the movement remains forward moving.  The Con moto is nicely paced and has a sense of melancholy mixed in, and while there's ample lyricism, the movement doesn't really flow as well as some others.  Nonetheless, it works very well, indeed.  To the extent one can kvetch about the second movement, it would be well-nigh impossible to do so about the Scherzo, alternating between more assertive, playful playing, and lovely lyricism.  It hits the spot.  As does the Rondo, which opens in a delightful, sweet, dancing manner, and PBS keeps the tone light throughout.  Overall, this is one of the best versions I've heard.  Next up, D894.  PBS brings the Molto moderato e cantabile at 17' even, so it's got room to breathe.  He opens slowly and introspectively, and he never really plays too fast, but he does speed things up and play some louder passages with some nice heft.  Of course, one cannot expect the titanic dynamic range of Michail Lifits or Arcadi Volodos in an old recording, and PBS doesn't even seem to be trying to play with such range, but the effortless, flowing forward momentum make that largely irrelevant.  The Andante continues along in a similar vein, with the forte passages comparatively more intense than in the opening movement.  In the Menuetto, the outer sections display some tumultuous playing mixed with more beautiful playing, while the middle is tender and lovely.  The Allegretto is more relaxed in overall feel.  Competition is stiffer in this sonata, and if PBS doesn't quite match up to my favorites, this recording is still very fine, indeed.

Disc eight.  D958 opens it.  The Allegro has some nice contrasts.  It starts a bit hard and moderately fast, but then quickly backs way off in both tempo and dynamics.  Returns to the opening material start off slow and gradually build up speed and strength each time before reverting to slow playing.  At times, the playing borders on being too slow, and some may very well think it is.  The same is true of the Adagio, which starts off quite slow.  It lacks enough drama to really make it work, at least in the first theme and every return.  The second theme is more vibrant and dramatic and works a bit better.  The Allegro keeps the slow approach, but works better owing to a tunefully solemn style, which carries over into the less successful trio.  The concluding Allegro finally finds PBS playing with less restraint, with a propulsive rhythm, and some seriously clear left hand playing.  Unfortunately, tape overload and distortion is seriously clear, too, as it was from time to time earlier in the piece.  This isn't so much a problem with the second theme, which is of the endless melody variety of playing, but it is for almost everything else.  The first of (sort of) two recordings of D959 follows.  It retains the sub-par sound, though it sheds the too-slowness of D958.  PBS keeps things lyrical and moving along, but coming so relatively soon after Zimerman's super-human playing (and SOTA+ sound), this is more plain, though more plain also means more introverted and smaller scale, with more conventionally scaled dynamic contrasts.  The Andantino is of the slow, mostly subdued, somber variety, with just enough melodic goodness to satisfy before the tumultuous middle section.  The Scherzo is alternately energetic and calm, and mostly lyrical, though one can hear some hard hit notes here and there.  The Rondo comes close to an endless melody approach much of the time, the more turbulent development excepted, and if the sound was close to SOTA for its age, it would have been even better.

Disc nine is devoted to the first recording of D960 in the set, though it was the second one released.  It comes in at forty-one minutes.  PBS plays the Molto moderato at a lengthy 19'19" but it doesn't sound particularly slow most of the time, has a bit of edge in louder passages, some agitation in the repeated left hand notes, and more of a tense classical vibe than a dark romantic one, though around halfway through it becomes a bit more forlorn.  The Andante doesn't become the center of the work, but it does sound starker, more austere, though not without lyricism, and some nifty left hand playing.  The Scherzo sounds mostly light and fleet, as does the Allegro ma non troppo, though PBS does infuse a bit of bite in places.  Overall, it's a good rendition, but ultimately it's not what I tend to listen for.
 
Disc ten contains D959 and D960.  The first, second, and fourth movements of D959 are the same recordings as on disc eight.  This Scherzo was recorded in 1967, while the one on disc eight was recorded in 1971.  This one is about thirty seconds slower, and with adjustments for tempo, leaves the same general impression as the other recording, with the exception of the notably slower and sweeter trio and some repeated use of rubato.  D960 however, is an entirely different recording, made in 1967, that was replaced by the 1971 recording that appeared on disc nine.  A bit slower across the board than the other recording, it is noticeably different.  The Molto moderato, at just under 20', is darker and more lyrical, and PBS throws in some nearly jarring accelerated passages for some reason.  Overall, despite those passages, and the even more dated sound, the overall style is more my speed.  The Andante is not as stark as the later recording, instead sounding more lyrical and more urgent.  Both the Scherzo and Allegro ma non troppo also sound more lyrical than the later recording, with a slightly fuller and darker tone.  This D960 does not rate as one of my favorites, but I do prefer it to the later recording presented on disc nine.

Disc eleven contains 1968 recordings of D664 and D845.  In D664, the first two movements are very slightly slower than the take on disc 5, which when combined with the slightly warmer sound, results in an even more attractive endless melody style that works just swell, and probably just a smidge better than the other recording.  D845 is a few seconds slower in all movements except the Andante, which is about a minute longer.  The Moderato displays some of the same agitated and tense playing as in the prior version, just moderated a bit.  The entire second movement is more relaxed and lyrical than the prior recording, and it works extremely well given the approach.  But it lacks the near-"wow" factor that comes with the more robust reading.  The Scherzo and Rondo both balance lyricism and energy very nicely.  This recording considered on its own is superb, but it is overshadowed by the blockbuster 1971 recording.

The set ends with a twelfth disc devoted to a 1967 recording of D850.  The Allegro vivace is about thirty seconds slower than the previous version, and it makes a big difference.  The sound is chunkier and clunkier for much of the opening, and though the movement picks up a bit, it doesn't flow as well.  The dynamic contrasts are excellent, but the effect is muted.  The Con moto comes in at a minute longer than the prior version, and somewhat against expectation, it flows slightly better, though the sense of melancholy is not as apparent, and some of the playing sounds more urgent.  The Scherzo and Rondo both have basically identical timings, but offer something a bit different.  The Scherzo adds some striking, more potent playing in the trio, while the outer sections sound amply lyrical and rhythmically bouncy, with some patches of hard-hitting playing.  The Rondo is mostly light fun, with some hard-hitting playing, though as with the Scherzo that seems an attribute of the recording more than the playing.  Overall, the 1971 recording presented on disc seven is superior, and it is obvious to me why it was selected to go in the LP box set of the complete sonatas.

Overall, this is an outstanding set of Schubert’s sonatas, one of the best I’ve heard.  It bests PBS’s later, HIP set.  Only D958 ends up being a letdown, with everything else at least very good.  Especially good are the early sonatas, and D845 and D850.  Sonics are not up with best of the time, let alone today, but that doesn’t matter a whole lot in the end.

Unlike other big box reissues I've bought, the artist's fingerprints are all over this one.  Badura-Skoda penned the detailed liner notes himself, concluding with a statement that perhaps he ought to rerecord D960 (I hope he's serious, and I hope he hurries), and the remastering notes indicate that he was also very active in the process, to the point of insisting on the editing of some single notes and modifying tempos.  This set very much reflects how the pianist wants the recordings to sound.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: amw on April 15, 2018, 05:37:10 PM
concluding with a statement that perhaps he ought to rerecord D960 (I hope he's serious, and I hope he hurries)
https://www.amazon.com/Badura-Skoda-Plays-Schubert/dp/B00AA9QJBU
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 15, 2018, 06:42:43 PM
https://www.amazon.com/Badura-Skoda-Plays-Schubert/dp/B00AA9QJBU


That's from 2012.  His liner notes are from 2017.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: amw on April 15, 2018, 07:07:22 PM
Interesting.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Jo498 on April 15, 2018, 10:50:54 PM
I didn't really want to buy so many CDs anymore, even less boxes and I recall Badura-Skoda as a rather uneven pianist from the bunch of recordings (Mozart, some Schubert) I heard, but I probably have to get this set. (I also only have the historic Diapason set and Zacharias and Lupus not at all complete "sets" for the less famous pieces).

As for the nonagenarian pianist, I recently read a fairly ungracious comment about a concert he gave, age apparently is taking its toll, so I would not expect much from another recording.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on April 16, 2018, 12:06:45 AM

The set ends with a twelfth disc devoted to a 1967 recording of D850.  The Allegro vivace is about thirty seconds slower than the previous version, and it makes a big difference.  The sound is chunkier and clunkier for much of the opening, and though the movement picks up a bit, it doesn't flow as well.  The dynamic contrasts are excellent, but the effect is muted.  The Con moto comes in at a minute longer than the prior version, and somewhat against expectation, it flows slightly better, though the sense of melancholy is not as apparent, and some of the playing sounds more urgent.  The Scherzo and Rondo both have basically identical timings, but offer something a bit different.  The Scherzo adds some striking, more potent playing in the trio, while the outer sections sound amply lyrical and rhythmically bouncy, with some patches of hard-hitting playing.  The Rondo is mostly light fun, with some hard-hitting playing, though as with the Scherzo that seems an attribute of the recording more than the playing.  Overall, the 1971 recording presented on disc seven is superior, and it is obvious to me why it was selected to go in the LP box set of the complete sonatas.


Yes I agree about this, in fact I just can't imagine anyone disagreeing, nevertheless  I prefer the way he handles the piano in the Arcana recording for the colours and asperities, which I think brings something new to the game.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on January 13, 2019, 07:38:01 AM
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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. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on January 19, 2019, 07:28:55 AM
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[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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on January 19, 2019, 09:45:41 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on January 26, 2019, 08:06:28 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka 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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Jo498 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?

Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka 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.

Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on February 02, 2019, 07:37:51 AM
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[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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on February 09, 2019, 07:34:47 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on February 16, 2019, 07:36:03 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: MickeyBoy 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?
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on April 27, 2019, 04:36:23 AM
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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. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on May 04, 2019, 06:11:55 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on May 11, 2019, 03:08:42 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on May 18, 2019, 03:50:00 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on May 25, 2019, 04:25:45 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 01, 2019, 05:01:04 AM
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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.   
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on June 09, 2019, 06:14:04 AM
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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.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka 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. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on October 19, 2019, 07:10:39 AM
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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. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on November 09, 2019, 05:47:26 AM
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Every once in a while, a great artist releases a recording that, despite the artist's ability and talent, fails to live up to expectations; every once in a while, a great artist produces a dud.  This is not one of those times.

The disc opens with the main work, and Volodos opens with rich, dark-hued forte chords that seem perfectly controlled in every aspect, but then come the descending arpeggios and Volodos plays with such incredible sensitivity and finely nuanced touch that it scarcely seems credible.  Had he not released his Brahms and Mompou discs before this, one might almost think some studio knob twiddling was deployed to achieve the effect.  As he moves through the movement, Volodos plays every bar well nigh flawlessly, but something of a flaw does begin to catch one's ear.  The playing sounds so ravishingly beautiful and meticulous and perfectly refined in absolutely every aspect that one revels in the pianism alone.  The music almost becomes secondary.  That's not say the Volodos draws attention to himself and plays in a flashy way, but rather to say that the level of perfection is so absolute and all-encompassing that it almost defies belief, and one not only can't hear the musical forest for the trees, but one can't entirely appreciate the trees for the meticulously manicured bark, at least on the first handful of listens.  (It took a full half-dozen run-throughs before I could appreciate the full scope of the music.)  For instance, in the coda of the Allegro, one greedily listens to every note, or tries to, whether it is in the meticulously played accompaniment or the colorful melody or, even better yet, in the dreamy final notes.  It mesmerizes.  Volodos makes the Andantino the heart of his conception.  His playing is quite simply beyond beautiful, richly hued, and sorrowful in a flawlessly controlled way in the opening, and his slow tempo seems just right.  He transitions to the middle flawlessly, and then creates a dream-like atmosphere while slowly building up to a fully satisfying fortissimo.  One might be able to say that his sforzandi lack the last word in bite since they are so obviously perfect sounding, but that wouldn't be entirely true, and it's entirely irrelevant in the end.  In the Scherzo, Volodos displays more energy and weight, and while the rhythmic component is flawless, it's idealized, it's self-contained, and the Trio takes the more beautiful than beautiful approach up again in the right hand playing, where some of the pianissimo playing again makes wonder how he does it.  In the Rondo, Volodos lavishes such focus and control on the right hand playing as to render the movement an endless melody, only interrupted by some potent but gorgeous left hand playing in the stormy middle section.  The overall effect of the playing is to create an aural frieze of sorts, one so finely executed that the listener could, if he or she chose, grab any ten or twenty or thirty second snippet and listen to it in a loop and enjoy perfection, or, as is more advisable, the lucky listener could just luxuriate in the whole thing.  Great is such a puny word.

On Volodos' Tchaikovsky and Rach concerto discs the biggest draws are the encores.  That very nearly happens here - and that with one of the great D959s as the big work!  Volodos' selections were not random, and he makes them seem like more than miniatures.  To be sure, he does not and cannot turn the pieces into epoch defining compositions.  What he does and can do is play them with such immaculate control and beauty that he manages to deliver condensed versions of Schubert's much vaunted Heavenly Lengths, and in the D600/D610 he pulls off the musical suspension of time trick, and lends the playing weight and drama sufficient to be accompaniment to a serious lied.  In D313, at the 1'27" mark at the beginning of the middle section, the playing drops rather dramatically in volume from its already low level, to something akin to pppppp.  At first, I almost thought this was a case of engineering gone awry, though something nearly as delicate and gentle appears close to the end of the section.  Volodos easily displaces Yaeko Yamane in delivering the most gently played, quietest pianississississimo playing I've heard, and he does so while delivering such beautiful tone and such effortless lyricism that I cannot help but spin the whole damn disc when I start it up, just like with his Brahms.

When earlier this year I saw that the great Mr Volodos was releasing Schubert's D959, I was most excited.  Having heard a live version from him online a while back, I knew good things were in store.  Having now heard this disc multiple times, I can confirm that something much better than merely good was delivered.  A purchase of the year and decade.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on November 09, 2019, 08:37:26 AM
Thanks for the review of the newest Volodos, there is also an older disc of his that this has tipped me off to with D157 and D894.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on November 09, 2019, 08:41:20 AM
Thanks for the review of the newest Volodos, there is also an older disc of his that this has tipped me off to with D157 and D894.


That is a great disc, but this one demonstrates how Volodos has evolved in the ensuing years.  His touch and control in the earlier disc is of course super-fine, but it is now nearly super-human. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Brian on November 09, 2019, 01:10:27 PM
That cover image is the same picture used on the back of the booklet for his Brahms CD.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on November 09, 2019, 02:16:05 PM
It certainly is amazing piano playing.

I’ve been listening to 959/ii. Does he build enough tension before the outburst? Or does it sound like a random nonsensical event? I don’t know. The pianissimos are so quiet!
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on November 29, 2019, 04:22:12 AM

That is a great disc, but this one demonstrates how Volodos has evolved in the ensuing years.  His touch and control in the earlier disc is of course super-fine, but it is now nearly super-human.

I bought the old Sony SACD, the performances were very good. I have the new disc in my queue. In the meantime Kun-Woo Paik's Schubert album has been in my heavy rotation, it's exceptional, if you bought the CD does it have English liner notes?
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on November 29, 2019, 05:37:40 AM
In the meantime Kun-Woo Paik's Schubert album has been in my heavy rotation, it's exceptional, if you bought the CD does it have English liner notes?


Yes, by Jeremy Siepmann.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on November 30, 2019, 10:24:04 AM

Yes, by Jeremy Siepmann.

Thanks, a purchase will be in order.

I've finished listening to Volodos D959 twice, the first time letting the volume just rip on my Harbeths, I think what you've written rings particularly true to how I'm hearing it as well. This might require many listens before I fully come to grips with it because I was reveling in his pianism, but aside from the Andantino I felt like I wasn't that moved by it as a whole. This might be because I was focusing so much on his playing. Last night it was 1 am, well past when I'd normally be up and I'm thinking shit, I really want to hear this all over again. It is pretty safe to say I'd go out of my way to try and see Volodos play this program.

My favorite from 2019 remains Lucchesini. I fell in love with this on first listen, in my opinion he brings some lyricism to the first movement that I found Volodos was a bit lacking in, and some nervous energy towards the end of the first movement. This disc sat on my shelf for a couple of months, I was afraid it would not live up to my expectations of seeing him play D959 live, which still echo in my head. Fortunately the overall execution and level of performance was fairly similar.

I have Lonquich up next. It seems like 2019 has been a bloody good year for D959.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on December 07, 2019, 07:51:11 AM
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Dina Ugorskaja now belongs to that collection of artists about whom it will always be asked "What if?"  What if she had not passed away at the way too young age of only forty-six?  I first stumbled upon her a few years back when I spied some late Beethoven she had recorded.  I bought it, listened, and then I then scrambled to buy up all of her recordings then available.  No doubt inspired by her father, Anatol Ugorski, she went her own way.  Her interpretations do not quite sound like anyone else's.  There something unique, sometimes willfully so, in much of her playing.  I still remember the first time I listened to her recording of Kreisleriana.  It left me bewildered, almost dazed.  What is this, I thought?  Now, it's old hat, but it took a while to get there.  Rarely do pianists evoke this type of response.  And yes, I am including the typically very willful pianists when I write that.  Unlike Pogorelich or Barto or even Ugorski, Ugorskaja is often off-kilter, but for some very good reasons that only reveal themselves after multiple listens, and coming to terms with what she decided to do.  It was with surprise and sadness that I learned of her death recently.  And then when I saw that Schubert would be her final recorded testament, particularly D960, I had to hear it, but I immediately thought that she would turn the main work into a personal exploration of impending death.

Ugorskaja has never been a speed demon, but her D960 is on the longer than long side, coming in at over forty-eight minutes total, with just shy of twenty-four minutes devoted to the Molto moderato.  While one might be tempted to approach this as her rumination on impending death, especially with the long pauses and desolate bass trills, one doesn't get that sense for much of the movement.  It does start very slow, and only gradually picks up the pace a little bit, and it does pick up in dynamic contrasts a bit, but it seems more broadly contemplative than grim.  Maybe one can catch aural glimpses of resignation, as when she extends some arpeggios just so, or hints of anger in the bass trills.  Also, partly due to the breadth and style, the movement takes on a fantastic air, sort of quasi-spontaneously unfolding.  It's not the most lyrical, not the darkest, not the lightest, not the most anything; it's just a serious take on the piece.  She continues this on into the Andante, which also remains slow and long a almost becomes the focus.  The middle section finds her playing the left hand figurations in an almost detached way when compared to the melody, so there's a sense of disjointedness, but it works.  After well over half an hour of slow, somewhat heavy music making, the Scherzo comes off as a light, lyrical respite, though it keeps a somewhat disjointed feel compared to fleeter takes.  The concluding Allegro ma non troppo merges the approach of the first two movements and the third into something alternating between more lyrical flights of fancy and stormier passages.  Overall, it's an excellent take, with some fine details, but it's not a standard-setter, and not a glimpse into the unknown by someone standing on the precipice.

Any ideas about purely funereal Schubert are entirely dispelled in D946.  Ugorskaja plays the opening Allegro assai with more than ample energy and drive.  Indeed, it comes closer than anticipated to sounding like driven, hard-hitting Schubert than lyrical Schubert.  The lyrical bit is saved for the quite attractive and very well judged Allegretto.  It's firm, yet lilting; it's relaxed, but it has backbone; it's beautiful, but it's not flowery, especially in the faster passages.  In the Allegro, she plays the music in a fairly driven manner in the outer sections, but it is the more tense than lovely middle section that stands out.  Here, one might say that there are hints of anger.  D946 represents a comparative qualitative step up.

The recording ends with the Moments Musicaux D780.  Again, Ugorskaja avoids the specter of death, at least to start, instead opting focus on some little details.  She extends some phrases, truncates others, mixes lyricism and harder edged playing, and deploys strong but not domineering sforzandi - and that is just in the opening Moderato.  The Andantino has long struck me as a piece that can assume as funereal and haunting a feel as anything in D960, and while Ugorskaja does offer hints of darkness, it's about more than that.  The lullaby section has a sense of darkness and resignation, but the second section is off-kilter, disjointed, a confused musical wandering, with the pianist searching, looking, desperately grasping, and when it returns, it is sharp, intense, and painful.  It turns out that this may be the emotional heart of the work, of the recording.  To offer nearly maximum contrast, the Allegro moderato is more or less just a gentle, lovely, slightly off balance piece meant to soothe.  The same cannot be written about the Moderato that follows, which has some bite, and the Allegro vivace has even more.  Finally, in the concluding Allegretto, one hears a more compact piece that seems to alternate between sorrow and acceptance.  Ugorskaja doesn't let the music just flow, but there's a sense of calm, even in louder passages, and somehow, even in simple chords, the pianist imbues the music with something more, something undefinable.  Though the set starts with Schubert's greatest solo piano work, Ugorskaja saves her very best for last.

Once again, as in every release I've heard from her - which is everything except her Brahms - Ugorskaja delivers something unique, something with moments of intimate insight and expression.  She delivers something real, something beyond merely the notes.  This is not the greatest Schubert recording I own, but it never needed to be, and to say that there is more than enough to return to over the coming decades is an understatement. 

Though I never met her, I already miss Ms Ugorskaja. 
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on October 11, 2020, 05:08:33 AM
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If a pianist is gonna start a new Schubert piano sonata cycle, why not announce intentions by starting off with D960?  William Youn includes the repeat and starts off slow and austere, highlighting, discreetly, some left hand playing, while keeping the long Molto moderato moving forward smoothly.  He manages to bring out all voices with superb clarity without overemphasizing anything, and he uses pauses expertly, not overdoing those, either.  He delivers right hand figures with perfect weight and duration for each note, he delivers supremely clear accompaniment, and then, of course, he delivers superb bass trills.  So basically flawless is Youn's playing that one might, just for a second, think it's too perfect.  He's gotta botch something.  Youn's playing is not the most emotive around, so I guess there's that, but that hardly counts as a flaw with playing like this.  Typically, I don't really think of Youn as a hard hitting pianist, because that's not his thing, but here he shows he can do so when so inclined.  In the Andante sostenuto, Youn delivers lovely melodies, and the accompaniment is halting.  Maybe that's a flaw, except for the perfect execution and realization, which Youn amplifies when he speeds up and plays the middle section with more lyricism and tension, and some terse, powerful left hand playing.  Youn plays the Scherzo at a brisk, clear pace, and again his clarity of voices really stands out.  One can follow the insistent, perfectly poised left hand, or the brightly colored melodies emerging form the right with equal ease.  Youn starts the concluding movement firmly but not with a massive bang, and almost like Zimerman, he sort of clips it a bit.  This means that the fortissimo playing later has more impact, and the gently insistent, indeed unyielding left hand playing sounds quite compelling, somehow drawing attention away from the melodies, though not really.  Very nice.  As predicted.  Less predictable is the rushed coda, which adds a nice touch.  He closes the disc out with D157.  Whenever I heard the opening, memories, never too old, of Volodos' recording comes to mind.  Youn does things differently.  He zips through the Allegro ma non troppo, delivering a less beautiful take, obviously on purpose.  It's more about propulsive energy.  The Andante likewise gets played briskly, and somewhat unusually, Youn does not play with unlimited beauty, instead focusing on simplicity.  It works, but sounds colder than Volodos.  He closes things out with a crisp, light Menuetto.  He plays slightly against expectations in the sonata, but delivers.

D664 starts off the second disc of the set.  This sonata can never sound too beautiful, and Youn is just the guy to demonstrate that.  The listener need only wait until the first arpeggio to relish the insanely delicate touch he deploys, and he delivers the entire movement with an at times almost eerie steadiness.  The dynamics alter gently, and the music at times sounds serene to the point of near stasis, with time itself suspended as each note coaxes the listener's ear.  Allegro moderato has rare been so ideally moderate.  In the Andante, Youn ups the beauty and serenity even more.  Somehow.  As the music rises gently in volume to the climax, it sounds inevitable and while loud, it remains calm.  And then, Youn plays the concluding Allegro almost stupid beautiful to open.  He neither over- nor under-emphasizes the rhythmic component of the movement, keeping things moving along at a nice pace.  No one, and I mean no one, has delivered a better little A Major.  Next comes the cobbled together D571/604/570 sonata.  Right away, in the opener, the music sounds like the accompanying text is missing.  Youn plays with multiple, quiet levels at once, and he creates a sense of drama that makes me hope he ends up accompanying some equally accomplished singer in Schubert's song cycles.  In the middle, before the return of the opening material, Youn plays the melody with almost inhuman beauty.  The second "movement" does not really sound of a piece, of course, but Youn does his level best to make it fit, and he introduces a bit of left hand weight.  The last two movements blend in, and again Youn demonstrates his ability to play with ridiculous beauty in the concluding Allegro.  The set closes out with the A Minor D784 sonata.  This sonata fares best with a bit of bite and strength added into the mix.  Youn starts off the Allegro giusto with a dark, brooding austerity.  The left hand trill that leads to the first instance of loud playing sounds foreboding, but Youn ultimately does not deliver thundering playing.  For those demanding imposing fortissimo playing, Youn may disappoint, but the tradeoff is that the music sounds more controlled and desperate, yet restrained.  The Andante finds Youn playing with his customary beauty, and then the Allegro vivace finds Youn playing with more grit and drive, making it obvious that the opening movement sounds exactly the way he wants.  To be sure, others hit harder in this movement, too, it's just that everything here is what the pianist wants.  So, D784 does come off well, if not as comparatively well as the other sonatas on offer here.

Superb sound.

A purchase of the year.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on November 05, 2020, 12:07:05 PM
Todd have you heard Lucchesini's Schubert Vol 3? It has an utterly fantastic D894 with similar sort of large scale approach he has used in the past.

Earlier in the week did a comparison of D958 with Lucchesini (Vol 3 Audite) and Piemontesi just because these came in within weeks of each other. Both are excellent, I am giving it to Piemontesi who never loses forward momentum. Piementesi has to be one of very finest I've heard. Both of these guys along with Volodos could certainly do with recording a whole lot more Schubert, the world would be better for it.

Sound quality on both is reference level as well but there is something about Piemontesi's recording you just want to listen to at recital levels from the first few rows.

This got me thinking to something Hurwitz always complains about is people clinging to their "old scratchy" historical recordings thinking they've never been bettered; while I have my fair share of them that could fill an entire room and continue to buy them I do see his point. With speakers with such great tonal color and timbral fidelity why rob yourself of listening to the best sounding recordings if the performances are great, this type of recorded sound gets you closer to the music.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Todd on November 05, 2020, 03:10:15 PM
Lucchesini's third volume is in my to-hear queue.  I expect Lucchesini quality results.

I long ago gave up on the notion that old warhorse recordings are the best.  For solo and chamber music, I typically prefer modern recordings (ie, 21st Century).  For some orchestral fare and a fair chunk of the opera repertoire, contemporary recordings may not always match up to the best from the 50s-90s, though. 

Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on November 06, 2020, 07:38:12 AM
Lucchesini's third volume is in my to-hear queue.  I expect Lucchesini quality results.

I long ago gave up on the notion that old warhorse recordings are the best.  For solo and chamber music, I typically prefer modern recordings (ie, 21st Century).  For some orchestral fare and a fair chunk of the opera repertoire, contemporary recordings may not always match up to the best from the 50s-90s, though.

This is how I feel as well, there is a bit more anonymity with conductors/orchestras since a bit later into the digital recording era than what preceded that.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on December 04, 2020, 12:41:01 PM
Taken from the new releases thread, I've now made it up to D894 from this box. It's truly exceptional and I say this as someone that didn't find his Beethoven cycle as a whole to my taste.

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/710lmuLtFOL._SL1200_.jpg)

Along with the Pascal Amoyel's Chopin Nocturnes set this Pienaar box will very easily be making my best of 2020 purchase list.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on September 06, 2021, 03:05:59 AM
Taken from the new releases thread, I've now made it up to D894 from this box. It's truly exceptional and I say this as someone that didn't find his Beethoven cycle as a whole to my taste.

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/710lmuLtFOL._SL1200_.jpg)

Along with the Pascal Amoyel's Chopin Nocturnes set this Pienaar box will very easily be making my best of 2020 purchase list.

Boots on piano. The interpretations remind me of Trudelies Leonhardt, and even Erdmann - and I agree that it’s interesting. He plays them like their dramatic songs. But really, to me the piano sounds such a crude instrument when he’s playing it, monochromatic and harsh, maybe it’s me, or the recording.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on September 15, 2021, 04:06:31 AM
Boots on piano. The interpretations remind me of Trudelies Leonhardt, and even Erdmann - and I agree that it’s interesting. He plays them like their dramatic songs. But really, to me the piano sounds such a crude instrument when he’s playing it, monochromatic and harsh, maybe it’s me, or the recording.

I listened to D537 and D568 as I saw some other complaints about the sound of the piano. I've listened to it on two different speakers and headphones and I'd have never thought there was something off about it had I not read the complaints. From the way people were describing the sound you'd think he was playing on a practice upright in a small corner room at a conservatory. I think the sound (and interpretations) is better than the Beethoven cycle. I don't really have a way to characterize the interpretations, I'm just glad they aren't weird as we don't have a lot of choice in the early sonatas.
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: Mandryka on September 15, 2021, 04:50:15 AM
I listened to D537 and D568 as I saw some other complaints about the sound of the piano. I've listened to it on two different speakers and headphones and I'd have never thought there was something off about it had I not read the complaints. From the way people were describing the sound you'd think he was playing on a practice upright in a small corner room at a conservatory. I think the sound (and interpretations) is better than the Beethoven cycle. I don't really have a way to characterize the interpretations, I'm just glad they aren't weird as we don't have a lot of choice in the early sonatas.

I think the issue is that timbre, tone quality, is not a big part of what he does. He does not dig deep into the piano's potential to produce subtle and complex sounds. So at that level it appears boots on piano. In conversation he's conceded this, and has also suggested that the quality of the pianos which are available to him aren't all to be desired.

The phrasing and touch is different, and there he may have things to say in Schubert, possibly interesting things.

(By the way, I've kind of put his Schubert to one side because I find myself enjoying exploring Pollini in these piano works.)
Title: Re: Schubertiade!
Post by: hvbias on September 15, 2021, 12:47:02 PM
I think the issue is that timbre, tone quality, is not a big part of what he does. He does not dig deep into the piano's potential to produce subtle and complex sounds. So at that level it appears boots on piano. In conversation he's conceded this, and has also suggested that the quality of the pianos which are available to him aren't all to be desired.

The phrasing and touch is different, and there he may have things to say in Schubert, possibly interesting things.

(By the way, I've kind of put his Schubert to one side because I find myself enjoying exploring Pollini in these piano works.)

Ah, thank you for expanding. I think I understand what you mean now, like the Beethoven cycle his tone isn't rich and I guess hand in hand richly-complex either. Both come across as a bit more midrange centric, that small scale approach was another thing that wasn't working for me in late Beethoven. For me Kempff is one of the very few small handful that can convincingly do that in late Beethoven.

I look forward to the Haydn cycle he hinted at, but after hearing performances like Paul Badura-Skoda Mozart Naive/Astree cycle or Brautigam in Haydn this is one I don't listen to much on modern piano anymore.