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Len Mullenger:

Schubert 3 Klavierstücke D 946, Allegretto D 915; Schönberg 3 Klavierstücke Op 11 and Sechs kleine Klavierstücke Op 19   Thomas Larcher (piano) ECM 1667 64 mins


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This is the best CD of Schubert's piano music which I have encountered since Richard Goode's magical account of the sonatas D 845 and 850, recorded in 1990 (Electra Nonesuch 79271).

Larcher is a name new to me, and he can be heard live in Brighton November 26th in ECM's festival celebrating their 30 years.

He has an uncanny sense of structure and timing, and his tonal control is amazing, every note precisely in place and every chord balanced to perfection. Yet this does not come across as coldly calculated. The recording of the piano is superb and this is playing to savour and hear repeatedly.

Beyond these basics, what makes this CD special is the ear cleansing and thought provoking alternation of the Schubert pieces with some of Schönberg's of eighty years later. This is of course something easily done by programming tracks in CDs with more than one composer, but Larcher's ordering derives from live recitals. Schubert's late piano pieces from 1828 and Schönberg's from around 1910 illuminate each other heard in this way. The Op 11 pieces are critical in the atonal revolution of the early 20th century and the compression of the terse, fragmentary Six Brief Piano Pieces was further developed by Webern in his many aphoristic miniatures. Larcher plays his two composers in exactly the same way, and you will find yourself listening to them likewise.

Add ECM's stimulating liner notes and their unique black and white presentation and art work (this time, photos of piano legs!) and you have something which threatens to go off the top of our rating scale.


Peter Grahame Woolf



Peter Grahame Woolf

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