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Schubert: Piano Sonatas, Impromptus / Andras Schiff [9-CD Collector's Edition]


Release Date: 10/18/2011 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001605402  
Composer:  Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff
Number of Discs: 9 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Some reviews of the original recordings that make up this set.

There can't be many less showy pianists on today's concert scene than András Schiff. That very refusal to draw attention to himself will, I suspect, make his Schubert controversial. Those who like their C minor Sonata bulging with Byronic sentiment or exploding with theatrical sparks will no doubt find Schiff's approach intolerably ascetic. For me, though, the absorption, the inner penetration of his playing here is worth the loss of a few histrionic thrills.

Schiff's understanding is revealed in tiny, delicate touches—the way the C minor's first movement eases gently into the second subject, or the nicely timed silences in the
Read more Menuetto, with the Allegro finale arising after another short but pregnant pause. At the same time there's a profound grasp of the Schubertian pulse: the tension between subtle rubato and what Theodor Adorno called the "somnambulistic" forward tread. It's beautifully judged, whether in minute details (the slight holding back in the running quavers near the start of the E flat Sonata is a perfect example) or on the longer term—the way D568's Minuet resumes the first movement's basic pulse; I may have heard something like that before, but I can't remember it ever feeling as revelatory, or as effortless.

Schiff is emphatically not one of those pianists that wants to show you at every stage what a fabulously rich palette he possesses, but the sound he gets from his Bösendorfer is, for me, hauntingly lovely, and the Decca recording captures it, and the Vienna Musikverein Brahms-Saal's intimate warmth, superbly. This Schubert cycle is beginning to look like one of the more encouraging achievements of our time.

-- SJ, Gramophone [10/1994]

Over two years have elapsed since Andras Schiff gave us his first disc of Schubert miniatures with the second set of Impromptus as its major work (7/90). Now comes a similar miscellany including the first set, again, like its predecessor, closely recorded in the warmly resonant Mozartsaal of Vienna's Konzerthaus. Perhaps I can best describe his approach by saying how completely different it is from that of another distinguished young contender in this field, Krystian Zimerman. When reviewing that artist's DG coupling of both sets, I wrote that he constantly made me think of how these pieces might have sounded if Schubert had given them to the orchestra rather than the piano. From Schiff, they emerge wholly keyboard-inspired—like everything else in the programme. Rather than trying to project the music as if in a large concert-hall, he calls to mind the composer spontaneously introducing it in the relaxed company of personal friends, even perhaps before having fastened it down in every detail on paper. Though in deference to its alla breve time-signature the G flat Impromptu (No. 3) flows more swiftly than we often hear it, in general he prefers leisurely tempos, always in his phrasing allowing time for the melody to sing. There is intensity and strength in plenty at moments of climax. But nothing sounds calculated or inflated.

Listening to the Moments musicaux 'in the dark' you might perhaps even guess the player to be very considerably older than Schiff, so tenderly self-effacing and simple is his manner (and is there sometimes just a slight suggestion of the older generation's way of playing one hand slightly before the other?). But in the spirited No. 5 in F minor there's no doubt whatsoever that we are in the presence of a youthful Hungarian—as is still more evident in the concluding Grazer Galopp, done with splendid rhythmic elan and tonal glint. Like the Six Deutsche Tänze, all lightness and grace, this Galopp is particularly welcome on CD in its original keyboard form instead of as orchestrated by others. The recital begins with a cajoling reminder of Schiff's own land, the Ungarische Melodie close enough to the composer's heart for him to use it again a few weeks later for the concluding Allegretto of his four-handed Divertissement a la Hongroise.

-- Gramophone [11/1992]

This seventh (and last) volume in Schiff's Schubert sonata cycle spotlights the young composer, starting with the E major work (D157) which, at the age of 18, he chose as his official No. 1. Schiff plays it with a delectable, springlike freshness and tonal charm – banishing every vestige of the ''impersonality'' the insert-note writer warns us to expect in the opening Allegro ma non troppo. His delicate keyboard 'orchestration' is no less a delight in the slow movement, with its plaintive reminders of Mozart's Barbarina and her lost pin. I enjoyed his rhythmic swing in the B major Scherzo – danced as it were by villagers rather than courtiers. And how clearly its abrupt ending leads us to expect the finale that never came.

It is easy to understand why the E major Sonata (D459) of the following year first appeared in print, posthumously, as Funf Klavierstucke. Each of the five movements inhabits a world of its own. And each is as unpredictable in sequence of ideas and modulation as in actual keyboard texture. Schiff himself revels in the music's romantic pre-echoes, not least in the demonstrative finale unusually headed Allegro patetico.

The disc is completed by the A major Sonata of 1819, the last of Schubert's youthful essays in the genre before a four-year break, but the first of these early works to find a regular place in the repertory. Its gracious, lyrical charm is caught by Schiff in a reading of winning simplicity. No detail is overlooked (there are endless subtleties to enjoy just from his left hand) but never does his point-making intrude. Even in the spirited final Allegro his relaxed approach suggests not a hard-working concert pianist but a Schubert playing at home for the delectation of his friends.

-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [11/1995]

How many piano sonatas did Schubert write? There’s no straightforward answer because he left several unfinished. Unlike other pianists, András Schiff does not attempt to complete the movements which only survive as fragments. In his urbanely reasoned preface to the informative booklet notes he tells us why he chose to record the music on a Bösendorfer Imperial rather than a Steinway, and modestly concludes: ‘There are endless ways to approach these wonderful works and what I have done represents just the attempt of one individual performer.’ In fact, Schiff is a consummate Schubert stylist and, at the same time, an individual artist whose own personality is revealed in almost every detail. He views Schubert as a composer with Classical roots from which sprang the fresh young growth of Romanticism. His playing is disciplined while lyrically eloquent; it’s also forthright when the music is vigorous. It is obvious that he loves every note. Rafael Orozco’s approach is more that of a virtuoso in the later 19th-century repertoire. Whereas Schiff always keeps a measure of Olympian detachment, Orozco wrestles with his passions. Which is not to say he is indulgent or undisciplined, but there is a strangely unsettled undertow to the first movement of the great B flat major Sonata which may or may not be intentional. His Wanderer Fantasy is exciting, but the very resonant, distant recording takes some getting used to. Your response to this disc will depend on whether you prefer a recording to be neutral or to recreate the acoustic ambience of a particular building.

-- Adrian Jack, BBC Music Magazine [10/1994]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Piano in E major, D 157 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1815; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 19 Minutes 19 Secs. 
2.
Sonata for Piano in E major, D 459 [fragment] by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1816; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 27 Minutes 47 Secs. 
3.
Sonata for Piano in A major, D 664/Op. 120 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1819/1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 23 Minutes 29 Secs. 
4.
Sonata for Piano in C major, D 840 "Reliquie" by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 26 Minutes 39 Secs. 
5.
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 845/Op. 42 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 36 Minutes 26 Secs. 
6.
Sonata for Piano in F sharp minor, D 571 [fragment] by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 7 Minutes 5 Secs. 
7.
Sonata for Piano in E minor, D 566 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 14 Minutes 14 Secs. 
8.
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 784/Op. 143 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 22 Minutes 13 Secs. 
9.
Sonata for Piano in D major, D 850/Op. 53 "Gasteiner" by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahmssaal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 37 Minutes 58 Secs. 
10.
Sonata for Piano in A flat major, D 557 "Sonatine" by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 12 Minutes 29 Secs. 
11.
Sonata for Piano in B major, D 575/Op. posth by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 24 Minutes 53 Secs. 
12.
Sonata for Piano in G major, D 894/Op. 78 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 38 Minutes 25 Secs. 
13.
Sonata for Piano in E flat major, D 568/Op. posth 122 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1992 
Venue:  Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 29 Minutes 33 Secs. 
14.
Sonata for Piano in C minor, D 958 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1992 
Venue:  Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 31 Minutes 22 Secs. 
15.
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 537/Op. 164 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahm-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 24 Minutes 8 Secs. 
16.
Sonata for Piano in A major, D 959 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 41 Minutes 4 Secs. 
17.
Sonata for Piano in C major, D 279 [fragment] by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1815; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1992 
Venue:  Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 18 Minutes 0 Secs. 
18.
Sonata for Piano in F minor, D 625 [fragment] by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1818; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 17 Minutes 55 Secs. 
19.
Sonata for Piano in B flat major, D 960 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1993 
Venue:  Brahms-Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 41 Minutes 51 Secs. 
20.
Hungarian melody for Piano in B minor, D 817 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1824; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1990 
Venue:  Mozartsaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 3 Minutes 45 Secs. 
21.
Impromptus (4) for Piano, D 899/Op. 90 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1990 
Venue:  Mozartsaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 28 Minutes 6 Secs. 
22.
German Dances (6) for Piano, D 820 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1824; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1990 
Venue:  Mozartsaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 6 Minutes 1 Secs. 
23.
Moments musicaux (6) for Piano, D 780/Op. 94 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823-1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1990 
Venue:  Mozartsaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 30 Minutes 22 Secs. 
24.
Grazer Galopp for Piano in C major, D 925 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1990 
Venue:  Mozartsaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 2 Minutes 10 Secs. 
25.
Impromptus (4) for Piano, D 935/Op. 142 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 
26.
Pieces (3) for Piano, D 946: no 1 in E flat minor by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
27.
Pieces (3) for Piano, D 946: no 2 in E flat major by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
28.
German Dances (12) for Piano, D 790/Op. 171 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria 
29.
Allegretto for Piano in C minor, D 915 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  András Schiff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 

Sound Samples

Piano Sonata No.1 in E, D157: 1. Allegro ma non troppo
Piano Sonata No.1 in E, D157: 2. Andante
Piano Sonata No.1 in E, D157: 3. Menuetto: Allegro vivace - Trio
Piano Sonata No.13 in A, D.664: 1. Allegro moderato
Piano Sonata No.13 in A, D.664: 2. Andante
Piano Sonata No.13 in A, D.664: 3. Allegro
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D459 (Fünf Klavierstücke): 1. Allegro moderato
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D459 (Fünf Klavierstücke): 2. Scherzo: Allegro
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D459 (Fünf Klavierstücke): 3. Adagio
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D459 (Fünf Klavierstücke): 4. Scherzo con Trio: Allegro/Piu tardo
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D459 (Fünf Klavierstücke): 5. Allegro patetico
Piano Sonata in C, D.840: 1. Moderato
Piano Sonata in C, D.840: 2. Andante
Piano Sonata No.16 in A minor, D.845: 1. Moderato
Piano Sonata No.16 in A minor, D.845: 2. Andante, poco mosso
Piano Sonata No.16 in A minor, D.845: 3. Scherzo (Allegro vivace) - Trio (Un poco piů lento)
Piano Sonata No.16 in A minor, D.845: 4. Rondo (Allegro vivace)
Piano Sonata No.8 in F sharp minor, D571 (fragment): 1. Allegro moderato

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Andras Schiff's Schubert  July 5, 2012 By Herbert  Leibowitz (New York, NY) See All My Reviews "Andras Schiff's repertoire ranges from Bach to Bartok, Beethoven to Ligeti.Every time I listen to him playing Bach's "Partitas," I'm entranced by his masterful rendition of Bach's dance rhythms and complex architecture. I had never heard him play Schubert's piano works, which are notoriously a challenge like climbing K-2 and surviving. But Schiff does not disappoint. He brings out all the sturm und drang, the inner voices, the colors and melodies of the music with virtuosity and intimacy. Highly recommended." Report Abuse
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