Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 1 in E,
; No. 8 in f?,
D 571/D 570/D 604
; No. 15 in C,
D 840 “Reliquie.”
Fragments: in c?,
Gottlieb Wallisch (pn)
NAXOS 8.570118 (72:23)
The young Viennese pianist Gottlieb Wallisch
confirms the favorable impression he made on an earlier set of Schubert’s fragments and unfinished piano sonatas, reviewed in
30:1 last year. The works on the present CD include sketches, fragments, and unfinished works from 1815–25, and once again, Wallisch enhances his performances with insightful and illuminating notes. He does not offer any “completions” of these fragments, as many pianists have attempted, but simply stops playing when the music breaks off. There is no completely satisfying explanation of why Schubert left so many of the piano sonatas unfinished, but Wallisch’s concluding words offer some consolation: “These fragmentary works very often breathe a special mysterious poetry. They provide a fuller view of Schubert’s creative process and musical thinking and at the same time bring to life for us his journey and quest.” Nowhere are these words better exemplified than in Wallisch’s haunting performance of the fragmentary first movement of the F? Minor Sonata, D 571.
The so-called “Reliquie” (all the unfinished works are “relics,” after all) is the most complete, as well as the most important of this group of works. Schubert finished the first two movements and the Trio section of the Menuetto and Trio, but left the Menuetto and the final Rondo incomplete. The loss is even more significant because, as Wallisch notes, this sonata inaugurated a new creative stage with a return to sonata-writing after a two-year pause. Schubert was, according to one of his letters, preparing through his instrumental compositions to pave the way for “great symphonies,” and the “Reliquie” exemplifies this ambition to a great extent. Quoting Wallisch’s notes again, “the piano-writing is laid out very orchestrally, and the individual sections and formal structures take on . . . symphonic dimensions.” Wallisch’s interpretation does full justice to the grandeur of Schubert’s vision; it is as eloquent as the performance by the fine Finnish pianist Ralf Gothoni, who made a magnificent recording of the “Reliquie” many years ago on the Ondine label (now unfortunately out of print).
Wallisch, who was a finalist in both the Queen Elisabeth and Clara Haskil competitions, is an accomplished and sensitive Schubert-player. The warmth in his playing complements Schubert’s poignant and expressive writing, while his sparkling touch brings lightness and gracefulness to livelier movements. Recorded in England in 2005, the piano sound is rich and real.
There is no mention of a continuation of the sonata cycle, but I urge Schubert-lovers to keep an eye out for future recordings as Wallisch approaches the great sonatas of Schubert’s maturity.
FANFARE: Susan Kagan
Works on This Recording
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