Monday, April 24, 2017

Franz Schubert - Impromptus (Murray Perahia)


Composer: Franz Schubert
  1. 4 Impromptus, Op. 90 (D. 899): No. 1 in C minor (Allegro molto moderato)
  2. 4 Impromptus, Op. 90 (D. 899): No. 2 in E-flat major (Allegro)
  3. 4 Impromptus, Op. 90 (D. 899): No. 3 in G-flat major (Andante)
  4. 4 Impromptus, Op. 90 (D. 899): No. 4 in A-flat major (Allegretto)
  5. 4 Impromptus, Op. posth. 142 (D. 935): No. 1 in F minor (Allegro moderato)
  6. 4 Impromptus, Op. posth. 142 (D. 935): No. 2 in A-flat major (Allegretto)
  7. 4 Impromptus, Op. posth. 142 (D. 935): No. 3 in B-flat major (Andante)
  8. 4 Impromptus, Op. posth. 142 (D. 935): No. 4 in F minor (Allegro scherzando)

Murray Perahia, piano
Date: 1984
Label: Sony Classical



To get some idea of Perahia's approach to this music imagine a tree just opening from bud in the radiance of spring. Brendel (Philips), in comparison, evokes the fuller shape and deeper hues of those same leaves in high summer. It is the sound world of these two artists, each so enjoyable in his own way, that is so different, with Perahia's limpid delicacy constantly reminding us of his dedication to Mozart while Brendel's fuller bodied, more opulently pedalled sonority leaves no doubt of his attunement to Beethoven. This is much emphasized by the recording engineers. The Philips sound leads you to imagine closer microphones in a more resonant studio.

For anyone with only a few minutes in which to make comparisons, I would suggest starting with the B flat major theme and variations from the second set (D935 No. 3), in which Perahia's faster, dancing lilt in the theme itself, followed by variations at once lighter, less pedalled and less consciously charged with expression, sums it up. The F minor Impromptu (D935 No. 4) is just as revealing. Whereas Perahia (here slightly the slower of the two) reminds us of the scherzando qualifying its allegro, Brendel far more often evokes Schumann's description of the piece as a kind of Schubertian rage over a lost penny. In the earlier D899 set, the second Impromptu in E flat shows a Perahia much more concerned than Brendel to keep the quaver triplets as light as air—so as to heighten the contrast brought by the more vigorous second theme in B minor. In the A flat Impromptu (D899 No. 4) Perahia again articulates the opening semiquavers with needlepoint clarity (as opposed to Brendel's slightly more leisurely washes of sound) before singing out the C sharp minor 'trio' more broadly. As I've already said, though as different as spring and summer, both performances are equally delightful and desirable. I can only suggest that you buy both.

-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone

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Franz Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer who was extremely prolific during his short lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and piano music. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the late Classical era and early Romantic era and is one of the most frequently performed composers of the early nineteenth century. His music is characterized by pleasing tunes while still has "a great wealth of technical finesse".


Murray Perahia (born April 19, 1947 in New York) is an American concert pianist and conductor. From 1973 - 2010, Perahia recorded exclusively for Columbia Masterworks, now Sony Classical. In 2016, Perahia signed with Deutsche Grammophon. Besides his solo career, he is active in chamber music and appeared regularly with the Guarneri and Budapest String Quartets. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, with which he records and performs. He is loved for his warm, gentle, smooth and lyrical qualities of playing.


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