Notes and Editorial Reviews
These were some of Ashkenazy's earliest undertakings for Decca, and they immediately explain that company's faith in him. The A minor Sonata and the comparatively unfamiliar set of Waltzes were in fact recorded way back in 1966, only four years after his triumph at the Tchaikovsky Competition. Both are played with a freshness and immediacy of imaginative response as arresting as anything the catalogue has to offer in these works.
I particularly enjoyed the potency of the mood contrasts in the sonata's opening Allegro giusto, achieved without sacrifice of the music's basic impulse. His lead into the reprise of the lyrical second subject (track 5, 8'35"-45") is exquisite. His finale, too, combines darting urgency with
a wealth of telling detail and subtle shading. The central movement is finely sustained and shaped with an imposing central climax, but I wonder if nowadays he would favour quite such a leisurely tempo for an Andante qualified by an alla breve time-signature? And if ever asked to re-record the G major Sonata, I also wonder if he would now take quite as long over its opening Molto moderato e cantabile (around 20 minutes with exposition repeat) as he did in 1970? This work in fact monopolized a whole LP when first released three years later, putting it at a slight sales disadvantage alongside a splendid rival Philips issue, also including Schubert's Reliquie, from Alfred Brendel. But there is raptness, an inner spiritual glow, in the playing which together with the boldness of the dynamic contrasts, somehow holds you spellbound until the eventual relief of the lightfingered, dancing finale. There is just a trace of metal in the tone above a certain level, but nothing serious enough to spoil your pleasure in these reminders of a very exceptional young man.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [8/1990]
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