Most lovers of Schubert's piano music will be familiar with works such as the Impromptus, Moments Musicaux, and Wanderer Fantasy and with his piano sonatas, many of which suffered from a long period of neglect. But besides these well-known works, Schubert composed a great quantity of dance music which has infrequently been recorded. These works tend to be short,simple, and immediately engaging. Schubert composed them throughout his life for soirees, home performance, and amateur music making. Many of these little pieces are within the range of amateurs and I have enjoyed playing them over the years. In company with Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn, among others, Schubert composed these endearingly popular works together with his larger, more formal musical statements.
Paolo Bordoni's two CD set of Schubert's complete waltzes is a rare treat. Originally released as a budget-priced LP box set in the late 1970s, it was reissued at a budget price in 2006. The set includes 84 tracks on the first CD and 54 tracks on the second for a total of 138 short waltzes. This constitutes a substantial portion, but by no means all, of Schubert's voluminous short dances.
Bordoni offers sparkling readings of these waltzes. He plays in a free rhythm with a great deal of rubato. The performances capture the lightness of these waltzes without trivializing them. Many of the works are joyful and fun while others have a tenderly wistful, melancholy character. Some of the waltzes are flowing and lyrical while others are rhythmically forceful with stacatto passages and heavy use of octaves. There is grace and flow in the dynamics and rhythm. On occasion, the late 1970s sound is a bit tubby.
Some of my listening to this CD was on a lengthy car trip. This is the sort of music that was written for and can be heard on background music. In the past, I have played some of these works myself as music for various social gatherings and will doubtless do so again after being inspired by the recording. For concentrated home listening, the waltzes are probably best heard in short sessions. And for individals with modest lessons in piano, these works will reward study.
The numbering of the waltzes is confusing, as with much of Schubert, but they were composed througout his life. The earlies set here probably are included in a compilation called "First Waltzes", D.365. The last waltzes are known as the "Waltzes from Graz" D. 924, composed in 1827. They are a worthy product of the last year of Schubert's life. Most of the waltzes are in a simple two-part form with each part repeated. But some of the waltzes in a set listed on this CD as "Last Waltzes" D. 146, include a secondary "trio" section sandwiched between the waltz material.
In addition to the long sets of waltzes, this CD includes Schubert's two scherzos, D.593, a cotillion, some isolated compositions, and Schubert's variation on the theme that Beethoven immortalized in his "Diabelli Variations."
Lovers of Schubert will love this CD full of spontaneous, delightful piano music.