In 2005, the Uzbestikan pianist Eldar Nebolsin (b. 1974) won the Richter Prize in the International Piano Competition, Moscow. Nebolsin is a young virtuoso pianist with an extraordinary technique which has already been compared to Richter's. Nebolsin has recorded a number of acclaimed CDs for Naxos, including Chopin's piano concertos.
I needed to hear this CD of Schubert piano music because it includes Nebolsin's reading of the sonata in A major, D. 664, op. 120, a work I have been studying and playing. Schubert wrote this sonata in 1819, as a young man of 22, but it was published only after his death. This sonata is not a virtuoso piece. Rather it is quiet, lyrical, with an ambiguity between lightness and introspection that characterizes much of Schubert's music. My efforts with this music made me appreciate Nebolsin's reading. He brings out the long, lyrical character of the main theme in the opening movement. I learned from listening to how he subdues the accompaniment figure in the left hand to the melody and how he avoids overpedalling. For a pianist of Nebolsin's gifts, these are small matters, perhaps, but they helped inspire me in my continued work with the piece. Nebolsin plays plays the second movement in a quiet, subdued manner which turns radiant for a moment as Schubert moves from minor to major key before turning back again. The light, rapid finale is full of turns and variety. Nebolsin emphasizes the skipping little waltz which appears as a secondary theme -- giving this movement a quality that Beethoven, say, would never have attempted in a serious sonata. Nebolsin also gives full character to the many arpeggios and big chords that punctuate this joyful finale. This is a wonderful recording of what remains Schubert's most frequently played and accessible piano sonata.
Unlike the A major sonata, Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy, D. 760, is a virtuoso work indeed. It is a stunning piece, among the most demanding in the piano literature, which amateur pianists such as myself can approach only in dreams. Richter's performance of this work remains famous, but Nebolsin gives a grand, storming performance of the Wanderer which brings forth both technique and musicianship. The work includes big powerful chords, long, lacy and demanding runs, especially in the slow second movement, and passages of sheer bravura. Beyond its technical demands, the Wanderer is metaphysical, heaven-storming, inspiring music that reminds me of what the human spirit, more than technique, can do. Composed in 1822, Schubert based the work on his song, "The Wanderer". It has four interrelated movements, including a big chordal opening, a slow variation movement with endless filigree and a singing theme, a large scherzo with contrasing powerful and lyrical themes and a fugual finale. Although my main interest was in the A major sonata, Nebolsin's reading of this clangorous, ambitious Wander Fantasy is the highlight of this CD.
The final work on the CD is an early Schubert sonata, the sonata in a minor, D.537, composed in 1817. The best-known part of this early work is the second movement, allegretto quasi andantino, because Schubert used its primary theme in the finale of his posthumous A major piano sonata, D. 959. It is good to hear how Schubert developed as a composer in the use he made of this theme between this early light work of 1817 and the masterpiece of 1828. In this 1817 sonata the theme has a tripping, almost music box character as it appears in small sections in contrast to other musical material. Nebolsin plays it with a light, delicate touch. In contrast, Nebolsin offers a stormy reading to the opening allegro ma non troppo which opens with strong syncompated chords and to the whirlwind, allegro vivace finale. Nebolsin makes a convincing case for the musical value of this early effort.
The CD was recorded in October, 2009 at Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, UK. The sound is large and spacious. I am looking forward to further recordings of Schubert and other music by this gifted young pianist, Eldar Nebolsin.
Total Time: 62:15