Notes and Editorial Reviews
No sooner did Barry Douglas undertake a Brahms cycle for Chandos than he begins this one devoted to Schubert, starting with the last sonata and the Wanderer-Fantasie, separated by two Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs. The sonata’s long opening Molto moderato unfolds as if it were playing itself. Fewer dynamic inflections occur than we hear from Leon Fleisher or Leif Ove Andsnes, yet Douglas’ flexible modifications of pulse flow easily and naturally. His unorthodox speeding up of the first ending’s dotted two-note phrases underlines the music’s sudden interruptive impact, setting the stage for a more animated repeat of the exposition.
The Andante sostenuto really moves, too, especially in Douglas’ ardent treatment of the
central A major section. In contrast to the dry-point suppleness that Leif Ove Andsnes brings to the Scherzo, Douglas uses dabs of sustain pedal to lift the high-register main theme several more notches above ground, while saving just a few strategic heavy accents for the Trio section’s off-beat bass notes. The finale is consistently taut and texturally clear, with unusual distinction to the scurrying left-hand accompaniments.
If Douglas doesn’t grasp the Wanderer-Fantasie’s thick chordal tuttis and gnarly figurations with the ferocity of Richter’s still amazing 1963 EMI studio recording (few do, to be fair!), his technical assurance and symphonic projection of structure and tempo nevertheless prove impressive. A cogent example of what I mean occurs in the Adagio variations, where Douglas’ previously discussed strong left hand returns as an anchoring focal point around which the Adagio’s decorative right-hand runs dance.
In Liszt’s transcription of “Ungeduld” from Die schöne Müllerin, Douglas’ emphatic articulation of the triplet chord accompaniment hammers the point home to a fault, whereas Leslie Howard’s gentler precision allows the melody to soar more effectively. Conversely, Douglas’ otherwordly legato phrasing in “Du bist die Ruh” nearly makes you forget the original vocal setting. In sum, Douglas’ intelligent virtuosity and individually idiomatic Schubertian voice bode well for Volume 2 and beyond.
Works on This Recording
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-Flat Major, D. 960: I. Molto moderato
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-Flat Major, D. 960: II. Andante sostenuto
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-Flat Major, D. 960: III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace con delicatezza
Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-Flat Major, D. 960: IV. Allegro ma non troppo
12 Lieder von Schubert, S558/R243: No. 3. Du bist die Ruh
6 Melodien von Franz Schubert, S563/R248: No. 5. Ungeduld
Fantasy in C Major, Op. 15, D. 760, "Wandererfantasie": I. Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo
Fantasy in C Major, Op. 15, D. 760, "Wandererfantasie": II. Adagio
Fantasy in C Major, Op. 15, D. 760, "Wandererfantasie": III. Presto
Fantasy in C Major, Op. 15, D. 760, "Wandererfantasie": IV. Allegro
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