Monday, April 24, 2017

Franz Schubert - Piano Sonatas Nos. 19, 20 & 21 (Murray Perahia)


Composer: Franz Schubert

  1. Piano Sonata No. 19 in C minor, D. 958: I. Allegro
  2. Piano Sonata No. 19 in C minor, D. 958: II. Adagio
  3. Piano Sonata No. 19 in C minor, D. 958: III. Menuetto. Allegro - Trio
  4. Piano Sonata No. 19 in C minor, D. 958: IV. Allegro
  5. Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D. 959: I. Allegro
  6. Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D. 959: II. Andantino
  7. Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D. 959: III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace - Trio. Un poco più lento
  8. Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D. 959: IV. Rondo. Allegretto
  1. Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat major, D. 960: I. Molto moderato
  2. Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat major, D. 960: II. Andante sostenuto
  3. Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat major, D. 960: III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace con delicatezza
  4. Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat major, D. 960: IV. Allegro ma non troppo

Murray Perahia, piano
Date: 2003
Label: Sony Classical




Murray Perahia’s intelligent musicianship, lyrical gifts, and cogent architecture make some of his live Schubert performances among the most memorable I’ve heard. These qualities inform his recordings of the composer’s last three sonatas. The A major D. 959 holds particular interest in light of Perahia’s earlier CBS recording from 1987. The pianist now opts for the first-movement repeat and generally conveys more sweep and inner urgency, making less of local details yet orchestrating the music with a wider variety of articulations and dynamic shadings. Notice, for example, the added finesse with which Perahia clarifies the left-hand detached notes against the right-hand legato in the first-movement recapitulation, plus the stronger rhythmic backbone he gives the Scherzo this time around. While both recordings of the slow movement time out to 8:05, don’t assume they’re identical: not at all! Perahia’s interpretation has grown tauter and less editorialized, yet somehow the music’s anguish intensifies, especially in those extraordinary outbursts of chromatic runs. What’s more, Perahia’s soft playing (in all three sonatas, actually) unfailingly conveys warmth and body, avoiding Mitsuko Uchida’s self-conscious brand of sensitivity.

In the C minor sonata, Perahia’s scrupulously gauged crescendos, diminuendos, and scales approach Richter’s unflappable, equally un-self-regarding virtuosity. For all the richness and diversity of texture Perahia brings to the B-flat sonata’s sprawling first movement, the mood is brusque and unsettled rather than otherworldly (à la Kempff and Lupu), abetted by the pianist’s fleeter than usual basic tempo. He sustains the slow movement well–but without Richter’s hypnotic steadiness or Rubinstein’s songful tenderness. Likewise, the Scherzo’s unpredictable phrase structures plus the Finale’s demonic undercurrents emerge with slightly more spontaneity and character in the Pollini and Lupu recordings.

Still, I like how Perahia launches right into the Finale’s opening unison G-natural as if to shatter the mood of the music that came right before. And shatter is the operative word when it comes to Perahia’s unrelenting approach to the central dotted episode, delivered with steel-edged definition. While Perahia’s last three Schubert sonatas may not displace my reference versions or other long-held catalog favorites, they reveal beyond question how this pianist’s artistry refuses to stand still.

-- Jed DistlerClassicsToday

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****


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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