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Schubert: The Late Piano Sonatas, Etc / Maurizio Pollini

Release Date: 05/07/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 419229   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Schubert
Performer:  Maurizio Pollini
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a feast of fine Schubert playing, well produced and handsomely presented and with the two CDs running to more than 70 minutes each. The booklet even includes glimpses of three Schubert autographs of the late sonatas. Predictably, the photo-reductions have rendered them pretty well illegible but with a magnifying glass you can just about discern how the first draft of the opening of the A major Sonata differed from the finished article. The good notes are by Paolo Petazzi, and I think it worth pointing out a misprint on page 18 in the English text, in his comments on the finale of the C minor Sonata, where G major—for the cantabile tune which appears in the middle of this vast rondo should read B major.

The recordings
Read more have been assembled from sessions in three different locations, the earliest of them dating from the end of 1983. All the venues have contributed something of character to the recorded sound, though the Herkulessaal in Munich least of all to the B flat Sonata, which was the most recent work to be set down, last June. This is rather a pity, because a feature of the collection is the way it communicates a master-pianist absorbed in his instrument and in Schubert, and sensitive (of cou se) to the space in which the music is resonating. How magnificent the A major Sonata sounds in the big hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. One would not expect Pollini to want to project the B flat in the same way, but it is another big work and could have gained something, I'd have thought, from more ambient colouring than has been allowed it here. By comparison with the rest it has come up a little neutral. And I count the finale of the B flat Sonata as the one disappointment of my listening. It is quick and too urgent for my taste, too uniform in its pressing onward movement. Where it first moves into a sunnier region and a continuous semiquaver pattern is set up (bar 86), Pollini doesn't suggest a new mood; and he gives barely a nod to the two markings of pianissimo in this passage and the corresponding one later on.

But what a sovereign pianist he is. His technique is so formidable as to be unnoticeable. If you do notice it, it is only as a result of reflection, when you consider what virtuosity and control of a special kind is needed to sustain the beauties of Schubert's long cantabile inspirations and to colour them with such subtlety. I am thinking in particular of the exposition of the B flat Sonata's first movement; also of the opening paragraphs of the slow movements of the other two; and of the lyrical episodes in the Klavierstucke, D 46, those wonderful late pieces which Brahms saw through the press 40 years after Schubert's death and which are still too rarely played. Here, most vividly, Pollini conveys the feeling of 'liberated time' that is such a feature of Schubert's late style.

Some may consider the manner of playing too pianistically cultivated (but what cultivation!) for music which so often aspires to transcend the limitations of the instrument, or at any rate to go beyond what can be comfortably contained on it. That might be a view but I wouldn't share it. As I listened It didn't occur to me to recall Brendel's observation that the last three sonatas ''seem more like disguised string quintets''. He, probably better than anyone, could convince me of that. He too would make more forceful even terrifying—the disruptions in these works: in the slow movements of the C minor and A major Sonatas, for instance, where Pollini is perhaps more intent on viewing such extraordinary events from a distance, rather than confronting them. They pass by, and the transitions he effects away from them touch us even more. Like Brendel, he Is a Journeyman through Schubert's landscapes, but when he makes you aware of the changes of light, or of the Wanderer's loneliness, it is at a greater remove. It is perhaps characteristic of him, as in the A minor Sonata, D845, he recorded for DG back in 1975 ( 419 672-2GH, 8/87), that he should give us a view of Schubert in which order and continuity are stressed rather than the more 'accidental' qualities. In this respect his first movements, in particular, strike me as splendid achievements, with their exposition repeats (in all three) triumphantly justified.

-- Stephen Plaistow, Gramophone [4/1988]
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano in C minor, D 958 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Maurizio Pollini (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for Piano in A major, D 959 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Maurizio Pollini (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for Piano in B flat major, D 960 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Maurizio Pollini (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Allegretto for Piano in C minor, D 915 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Maurizio Pollini (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 
Pieces (3) for Piano, D 946 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Maurizio Pollini (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 

Featured Sound Samples

Piano Sonata in C minor, D 958: III: Menuetto (Allegro)
Allegretto for Piano in C minor, D 915

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