Wandererfantasie, Op. 15, D760 in C major (1822) [20:24]
Four Impromptus, Op posth. 142, D935 (1827) [34:39]
Sonata No 16, Op. 43, D845 in A minor (1825) [35:34]
Six Moments Musicaux, Op 94, D780 [27:12]
Allegretto in C minor, D915 [4:52]
Paul Lewis (piano)
rec. December 2011 and March 2012, Teldec Studio, Berlin
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 902136/37 [55:15 + 67:58]
The latest instalment in Paul Lewis’s Schubert series
for Harmonia Mundi is as richly rewarding as its predecessor,
which I reviewed
earlier this year. It includes two works, the A minor Sonata
and the Allegretto in C minor, which I had the good fortune
to hear Lewis play live in a splendid recital just a few months
His account of the sonata in this CD set is every bit as fine
as I remember his recital reading was.
The first movement of the sonata opens with a modest, almost
tentative theme and it’s quite remarkable how much Schubert
makes out of this theme over the next ten minutes or so. I admired
especially the imaginative playing to which Lewis treats us
in the development section where Schubert seems to go off into
all sorts of keys during his exploration of the theme’s
possibilities. Lewis leads the listener along most persuasively.
In the Andante pocomosso, a theme and variations,
Lewis is adept at playing with the delicacy that Schubert requires.
The vivacious scherzo has more than a hint of the hunting fields
and in the trio I love the rise and fall in the music, which
Lewis delivers in a thoroughly idiomatic fashion. There’s
an airborne feel to the way he plays the rondo finale. Here
his lightness of touch is superb. I’m delighted to have
a memento of a performance that I so much enjoyed last May in
Lewis is just as convincing in the Wandererfantasie.
He launches into the opening Allegrocon fuoco
with tremendous energy but as the section unfolds he is completely
successful at relaxing where necessary and in bringing the requisite
light and shade to the music. There’s a fine sense of
repose in the Adagio though towards the end Schubert
takes us into rather more choppy waters and Lewis is fully responsive
to the changed mood. The Presto bounds along on the back
of some really dynamic playing but for the trio Lewis’
playing is really delicate, bringing out a dreamlike quality
in the music. There’s great purpose and drive in the fugal
material of the finale. Lewis is splendid here, achieving a
Beethovenian sense of thrust and drama.
The Impromptus are very well done; the only thing about these
pieces that is small scale is their length, as Lewis appreciates.
The first of the set, in F minor, is beautifully judged and
weighted. Lewis achieves a fine sense of fantasy in the central
lyrical episode (2:35 - 5:25) and at its reappearance (8:25
- 10:02). He avoids the trap of taking the A flat major second
piece too slowly and plays the music gracefully. Here, as on
many other occasions throughout his programme, he shows himself
to be a master of subtle rubato, which is so crucial in Schubert’s
piano writing. He takes great care over detail in the innocent
theme and variations that make up the third Impromptu, in B
flat, and in the fourth piece, where Schubert reverts to F minor,
he catches the playful spirit to perfection, not least through
the ‘wrong’ accents.
The Moments Musicaux are less substantial pieces than
the Impromtus but Lewis is no less attentive in his performances
of them. Once again his sense of rubato is well to the fore
in the second piece (Andantino) while the third piece,
an Allegretto moderato, trips along deliciously. There’s
strong rhythmic definition in the energetic delivery of the
fifth piece, Allegro vivace. The sixth and final piece,
an Allegretto, offers another opportunity to savour Lewis’
use of rubato. Every detail is precisely placed but it’s
the hallmark of a great pianist to make all this sound perfectly
natural: Lewis is a great pianist.
This is a set that is both enjoyable and satisfying. The playing
is carefully considered and technically flawless. More than
that, however, this is the work of an artist with a deep understanding
of Schubertian style. Paul Lewis has already established a reputation
as one of the finest Beethoven players currently before the
public. This recital and the previous release in this series
indicates that he is no less distinguished a Schubertian. The
recorded sound is excellent.
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