Franz Schubert's piano sonatas are treasures of lyricism and introspection. Many of these sonatas were long neglected, but listeners today are fortunate to have many versions of these works to explore.
This CD by pianist Mitsuko Uchida includes Schubert's sonata in A minor, D. 845 and his early sonata in B major, D. 575. Ms. Uchida is one of today's leading interpreters of Schubert's sonatas. She plays here with thought, care and attention to the details and subtelties of the score. She is faithful to the texts of the works, and, in particular, observes repeats. Her readings are inward in character, as is appropriate for this music. At times, I found myself wishing for more passion.
The A minor sonata D. 845, op. 42 composed in 1825, is a large-scaled, ambitious work which was the first of Schubert's sonatas to be published. It is in four movements. The first movement opens with a melancholy, lyrical theme punctuated by large chords and dramatic pauses. These is an even more lyrical second theme. There is a surprising lengthy development which includes a mysterious, light passage in a remote key followed by large, brooding passages in octaves low on the keyboard. The second movement, an andante, is a set of variations on a simple theme in two parts of 16 measures each. The variations get more complex as they progress, and include a great deal of runs and filigree and a variation in the minor. The movement closes on a note of peace. The third movement scherzo opens with a strongly rhythmic three-note figure which, as is the pattern in this sonata, develops into a passage of big chords. The contrasting trio is quiet and melodious. The finale is a rondo with some resemblance to the finale of Mozart's A minor sonata, k. 330. It opens delicately with broken chords in the minor and builds to a climax. The minor key returns after an interlude in the major. The work concludes with a climactic, sweeping passage and big chords. This is a major work that will reward many hearings.
Schubert composed his sonata in B major, D. 575 at the age of 18.
It is a four-movement work with a wealth of lovely melodies following on top of each other in profusion. The first movement begins with a march-like theme, followed by a passage featuring octaves in the right hand over triplets in the left hand, and then a lyrical quiet theme. The themes are of diverse character, and each is presented in a different key. (I find it helpful to follow this music with the score.) The second movement, andante, begins with a bell-like chordal theme which is soon followed by a singing theme in the left hand. This is largely a quiet movement. The scherzo is lyrical with an opening in the upper register of the piano followed by big chords in the middle of the keyboard. The trio is short and melodic, with a theme using six eighth notes to a bar. The finale is in 3/8 time and opens with a dance-like brusque theme followed by a flowing second theme. The music works to a soft close, with a climactic chord at the very end.
In his piano sonatas, Schubert took his lyrical and melodic gifts and poured them into a large formal structure, transforming it to his own purpose. These are beautiful works for the piano, and they will find their way into the hearts of receptive listeners.