Classical CD Reviews

SCHUBERT: Sonata in B flat, D960; Three Lieder: Viola D786 Der Winterabend D938, Abschied von der Erde D829 – Leif Ove Andsnes, piano/Ian Bostridge, tenor – EMI

Interesting combo of Schubert's final piano sonata plus three lieder sung by leading Schubertian interpreter Bostridge

Published on June 30, 2005

SCHUBERT: Sonata in B flat, D960; Three Lieder: Viola D786 Der Winterabend D938, Abschied von der Erde D829 – Leif Ove Andsnes, piano/Ian Bostridge, tenor – EMI
SCHUBERT: Sonata in B flat, D960; Three Lieder: Viola D786 Der
Winterabend D938, Abschied von der Erde D829 – Leif Ove Andsnes,
piano/Ian Bostridge, tenor – EMI 557901 **:

          
This performance of Schubert’s last piano sonata by the young Swedish
pianist is brisk, clear and lamentably lacking in emotional
content.  Although he permits himself some variation in tempo, his
dynamics are kept under far too much control.  The result is that
passages do not build, there is no brooding tension or tempestuous
outpouring, and ultimately the listener does not experience the full
delight and brooding melancholy of the composition.  Imagine
reading love poetry in a flat, declarative voice and you have the
effect achieved here. Recently the New York Times reviewed a recital of
Andsnes.  He was praised for his technical skills, but questioned
his “vulnerability.”  I suppose that’s a polite way of saying that
when emotion is overly damped the music suffers.
          
Serkin’s performance from the mid-1970s has explosive playing in both
hands during the first movement, a dangerously slow tempo maintained –
and justified – throughout the second, and a joyful conclusion in the
last.  Kempff’s performance a decade earlier has that master’s
ease and insight, while Schnabel’s pre-war reading contains whimsy and
grief.  None of these qualities is present here.  Different
is not always better.
 
At the beginning of Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, someone plays
Chopin metronomically, clinically – in other words, misses the intent
of the piece and so ruins it.  The audience of this 1938 movie
understood how silly it is to play the romantics without sweeping
emotion.  It’s a funny scene.  Now as I listen to this brave
new pianist I see how far we have come, and how much we have lost.
 
– H. Richard Weiner
 
 
 



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