Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: in a,
D 784 (op. 143);
D 960 (op. post.)
Diane Walsh (pn)
JONATHAN DIGITAL JDR 1009 (66:20)
32:5 I reviewed the first CD in Diane Walsh’s projected complete sonata cycle, and predicted it would be outstanding. The second disc is equally impressive; Walsh proves again to be an interpreter of uncommon sensitivity to the
special music world Schubert created.
Schubert composed three sonatas in the key of A Minor; chronologically all three are late works, and although each reflects Schubert’s poignant response to that tonality, they are quite different in their effect. The Schubert scholar Brian Newbould writes that D 784 is a “leap into the future” (
Schubert: The Man and His Music
). The first movement presents a stark opening theme in octaves, almost ominously martial, which is soon followed by passages of dotted rhythms. Its march-like motion brings to mind the characteristic image of Schubert’s lonely wanderer, tramping along in isolation. Walsh conveys this image with a perfect tempo that is moderate but inexorably moves the movement forward. The slow movement, in F Major, offers contrast tonally, but its mood is tinged with sadness. The finale, with its bubbling triplets, evokes more Schubertian images—of the rippling water in brooks and the innocent trout playfully darting about. Walsh vividly brings this imagery to mind even while skillfully negotiating some intricate passages.
Diane Walsh’s reading of the great posthumous B?-Sonata, the crowning glory in Schubert’s sonata output, is nothing short of magnificent. In all its 42-minute length there is not one misjudgment or misstep. From the opening measures of the first movement, whose slightly enigmatic tempo heading—
has been so badly misunderstood by myriad pianists (Kissin, Richter, and Uchida among them) to mean “very slow,” one hears a perfect tempo that moves forward, always with a flexibility that matches its changing content. In the dozens of performances of this sonata that I have reviewed, the main problem in many of them is the choice of tempo for the first and second movements. Perhaps it is because this is Schubert’s final sonata, and its serious first movement evokes a reverential, solemn response; but it succeeds in pointing up a common and unwarranted criticism of Schubert regarding the length of some of his works.
Throughout this CD Diane Walsh plays Schubert with a sympathetic understanding of his unique musical personality. This translates to following the score’s many subtleties of expression without imposing any mannerisms, shaping the phrases as Schubert wrote them, and letting the music speak with its own eloquence. The excellent sound of the recording, made at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, is another plus. One more element adds to the beauty of this production: Walsh’s very personal and sensitive liner notes. These are performances to be treasured.
FANFARE: Susan Kagan
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 784/Op. 143 by Franz Schubert
Diane Walsh (Piano)
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria
Sonata for Piano in B flat major, D 960 by Franz Schubert
Diane Walsh (Piano)
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria
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