Notes and Editorial Reviews
Brendel's meticulous respect for Schubert's every detailed inflection and dynamic gradation sheds more startling "new light" on these works than all the vagaries of the younger generation ever could.
It was way back in 1974 that Brendel completed his last memorable cycle of Schubert's later (18228) piano works (6747 175, 9/75—nla). So it's perhaps not surprising that instead of making do with a refurbished reissue, he should have chosen to record them afresh. This first disc of the new cycle aptly couples the concentrated, three-movement A minor Sonata of 1823 (the first of the seven representing the composer in full maturity) with the more note-filled work of 1825, when Schubert was still only 28.
Let me say at once that in sound-quality this new disc is decidedly preferable to those earlier records. Agreeably mellow and warm as they were, I could never wholly escape a suspicion of close microphones in a smallish, very resonant studio. Here the piano emerges truer to life, its more luminous, limpid tone allowing textures to sound clearer-cut, more crystalline (listen to the triplets in the treble that decorate the tune in the middle section of the Andante of D784).
In musical approach, Brendel remains very much the Schubertian we met before. As we know from his own writings, he has always held strongly personal views about Schubert's keyboard style, views strong enough not easily to change. True, he now repeats the A minor Sonata's first movement exposition (one of the few repeats he always sanctioned as optional), and there are a few small differences of overall timing. But again for the outer movements of the A minor Sonata—yes, even the "dance-of-death" (Brendel's own phrase) type finale—he still favours a more leisurely tempo than we often hear, just as his interpretation of the con mob o heading the slow movement of the D major work is faster than from distinguished rivals like Sir Clifford Curzon and Ashkenazy (both Decca).
Of the two works, I particularly enjoyed the A minor Sonata. There is sufficient inner intensity and rhythmic tension in Brendel's playing to sustain his chosen tempos, while his meticulous respect for Schubert's every detailed inflexion and dynamic gradation sheds more startling 'new light' on the text than all the vagaries of certain members of the younger generation ever could. The D major Sonata, too, is done with sufficient conviction to make you feel, as you actually listen, that it could go no other way. But getting out my old Curzon performance afterwards, I confess to finding myself still more captivated by Curzon's simpler calm and poise in the slow movement (taken slower) as also by some of his dancing lightness elsewhere—not least in the disarming finale, where again, as before, Brendel favours a surprising amount of pedal for the main theme's marionette-like staccato bass. And, incidentally, I personally prefer Brendel's stricter rhythm, in his older recording, towards the end of the finale's first episode, as also in his approach to the first movement's second subject, to what we hear from him now. But all that is merely personal. Both performances make it a disc that every Schubert lover will covet.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [11/1988]
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 784/Op. 143 by Franz Schubert
Alfred Brendel (Piano)
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 09/1987
Venue: Neumarkt, Oberpfalz, Germany
Length: 23 Minutes 43 Secs.
Piano Sonata No.17 in D, D.850: 1. Allegro vivace
Piano Sonata No.17 in D, D.850: 2. Con moto
Piano Sonata No.17 in D, D.850: 3. Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
Piano Sonata No.17 in D, D.850: 4. Rondo (Allegro moderato)
Piano Sonata No.14 in A minor, D.784: 1. Allegro giusto
Piano Sonata No.14 in A minor, D.784: 2. Andante
Piano Sonata No.14 in A minor, D.784: 3. Allegro vivace
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