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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus, D. 899 [27:40]
Piano Sonata in B flat, D. 960 [43:19]
Sodi Braide (piano)
rec. 2012, Saint Bonnet Theatre, Bourges, France
SOLSTICE MUSIC SOCD309 [71:00]

Sodi Braide is an English pianist, now based in Paris, who was born to Nigerian parents. I wonder if Schubert could have imagined that a performer of that description would ever play his music. This recital combines two of Schubert's late masterworks, the Impromptus D. 899 and Sonata in B flat D. 960 and there is a lot of very enjoyable playing on it.

My favourite performance might be the first one up: Braide's straightforward interpretation of the first impromptu. By going just a little fast, but not too much, he's able to avoid sentimentalizing the piece. It sounds like a well-structured allegro, not a weepy ballad. Braide's direct, flowing, fearless playing also serves the second and final impromptus well, although maybe not the third, the famous piece in G flat. Here he gets the tempo absolutely right but maybe not the soft tenderness. I have been spoiled lately by period-instrument performances which exploit the 1830s pianos' more powerful moderator pedals. The comparison is probably unfair.

There's also a lot to admire in the Sonata. I especially like Braide's risky decision to play the second movement very, very slowly (10:44), which he executes near-perfectly. He controls the pace very well and never seems to drag; Edward Rosser's similar take might be a bit more hypnotic. That said, Braide's first movement is perfectly paced and beautifully played too. He plays the scherzo fast and with a hard edge, for maximum contrast with what's gone before.

The album, recorded in 2011, is not perfectly engineered. The piano sounds too "bright," so some high notes give off a kind of piercing "glare". I hope the metaphor is clear. It's not enough to prevent a recommendation, especially if you're not listening on ultra-fancy equipment.

I hope we'll be hearing more from Sodi Braide. He has given us a very good Schubert recital, and also a personal, engaging booklet essay that includes a lengthy quote from Schubert's diary. Most enjoyable.

Brian Reinhart






 



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