Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata in G,
Piano Sonata in g,
Weiyin Chen (pn)
AZICA 71278 (56:42)
Weiyin Chen is up against some very formidable competitors in the Schubert Sonata, not least among which are Alfred Brendel, Wilhelm Kempff, Radu Lupu, András Schiff, and Schubert specialist Anthony Goldstone. I’ve left Richter out of the mix because his reading of this
Sonata, in particular, is so—well, I’ll say it—eccentric. Nonetheless, against this lineup of great keyboard artists and acknowledged Schubert interpreters, Chen emerges as a deeply probing player who finds the core of this music from the very first bar and never, for even a moment, loses concentration. Hers is a performance drenched in inexpressible sadness, a reverie in frozen tears; listen to the way in which Chen articulates those recurring three repeated notes throughout the first movement. Schubert keeps coming back to them, as if their tread bears the burden of all his sorrows, but in Chen’s hands, no two are weighted exactly alike, each telling its own story of quiet loss and sweet remembrance.
Almost needless to say, Chen observes the first-movement exposition repeat. But what does need to be said is that this is one of the most breathtaking performances of this Sonata I’ve ever heard. The pianist makes every single note speak and count, with the result that time is stilled from beginning to end. There is also something very special about the 1903 Steinway D Chen plays on this disc and about the recording itself. Outstanding piano recordings, of course, abound, but only the very rare one possesses the magical quality of seeming to make one’s speakers disappear, so that the piano is in the room with you. The instrument itself has a warmth, mellowness, and sweetness to it that’s ideal for this music. I can honestly say that no other performance and recording of this Sonata I’ve heard has won me over as this one has.
What a shock going from the last movement of Schubert’s Sonata, an almost innocent, folksy romp, to the maelstrom of Schumann’s Sonata, which seems to combine the
Sturm und Drang
element of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata with the keyboard figuration of Mendelssohn. Given Schumann’s youth when he wrote the G-Minor Sonata, and his desire to display his virtuoso peacock plumage to Clara, her father, and anyone else who would listen, the musical content of the piece shouldn’t be surprising.
Chen not only has to call upon all of her technical resources—which are abundant—for Schumann’s Sonata, but she must also shift gears stylistically and attitudinally from her approach in the Schubert; in essence, she must assume a different pianistic personality, and she does that amazingly well. This is a dashing and dazzling performance. Again, Chen is up against some heavyweights in this score—Martha Argerich, Gary Graffman, and Marc-André Hamelin, to name just three—but she more than holds her own.
This CD is unreservedly recommended for pianophiles and general listeners alike, a proud achievement for Weiyin Chen’s debut album.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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