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Schubert: Impromptus D 899, Sonata D 960 / Rudolf Buchbinder

Release Date: 09/10/2013 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 371742   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Schubert
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUBERT Impromptus , D 899. Sonata No. 21 in Bb, D 960 Rudolf Buchbinder (pn) SONY 371742

The veteran Viennese pianist Rudolf Buchbinder gives vital, engaged-sounding readings of this often-recorded music. Thought it isn’t indicated on the CD, these performances were recorded live, before an audience.

He takes some liberty in the first Impromptu, stretching the 16th notes in the dotted rhythms Read more of its quiet, marchlike opening measures. In the chords that “answer” the opening phrase’s single voice—the response to its call—he plays the rhythm precisely. Throughout the performance there’s a tension between a freer and more accurate concept of this rhythm that fits with the searching character of the Impromptu, the only one of the D 899 set whose unpredictable form suggests improvisation.

In Nos. 2–4, each of which is in ABA form, Buchbinder takes a more traditional approach. No. 2 isn’t so fast as to turn its scales into an étude-like exhibition of technique. No. 3 is lovingly played, slower than usual, with quite bit of lingering over phrase endings. The outer sections of No. 4 scintillate as required, with the middle section eloquently emotional.

Buchbinder plays the great Bb Sonata with fervor, rather than the detached reverence that some pianists bring to it. Like Alfred Brendel, and unlike Artur Schnabel, Buchbinder isn’t much of a colorist. He doesn’t let Schubert’s frequent pianissimo indications preclude a healthy sonority, and isn’t afraid to create the occasional percussive sound on his concert grand. It’s an authoritative performance with glowing sound whose virtues are its persuasive pacing and eloquent phrasing that achieves a sense of spontaneity.

Buchbinder takes the exposition repeat in the first movement, creating a huge racket with its low trill, and making a convincing case that Schubert’s often omitted second ending is too important to leave out. I’m happy to hear him play the exposition twice, because his pacing of the movement allows speeds to ebb and flow as its changing material demands, unlike performances like Richter’s that determinedly adhere to one very slow tempo throughout. The slow movement is perfectly done: heartfelt, revelatory. Buchbinder eases into the Scherzo, creating a personal, light-hearted effect, and he plays the Finale as a big triumphant ending. Its right hand triplets are made to fit with dotted rhythms in the left hand, according to modern scholarship, rather than tradition, or instinct.

Buchbinder is a seasoned master of the Viennese Classical repertoire, playing in a more individualistic, urgent way than in his earlier recordings. I prefer the rich sound and uninhibited energy of these Schubert performances to the well-mannered reticence of many other pianists’ interpretations. Sony’s sound is on the bright side.

FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano in B flat major, D 960 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Impromptus (4) for Piano, D 899/Op. 90 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Rudolf Buchbinder (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 

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