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Piano Sonatas Import
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|1. 1. Moderato|
|2. 2. Andante, poco mosso|
|3. 3. Scherzo (Allegro vivace) - Trio (Un poco pi\xF9 lento)|
|4. 4. Rondo (Allegro vivace)|
|5. 1. Allegro ma non troppo|
|6. 2. Andante|
|7. 3. Scherzo (Allegretto)|
|8. 4. Allegro giusto|
In 1825, Schubert, who had been extremely ill, experienced a change of fortune. He recovered his health, his songs were sung even by strangers, and his new piano sonata--unlike his previous 15--immediately found a publisher. It is to this somewhat confessional work that Mitsuko Uchida devotes the first half of this CD. She whispers the opening phrase like one preparing to divulge a confidence. The first subject admits painful regrets. The repeated-note motif is over-careful and rather self-absorbed--other pianists make it more throwaway. The andante variations plug into repeated Gs like an obsession; the minor episode resembles Chopin's raindrops. Uchida captures the stuttering nerviness beneath the scherzo's opaque cheerfulness. Schubert's recovery was a false dawn. The rondo finale spills all with a loose-tongued rush that is gripping if not always perfectly articulate.
The other half of the disc features the Piano Sonata in B major of 1817. The note suggests that the sonata was written for a female pianist with whom Schubert was briefly infatuated and certainly there is an element of contrived showing off in the clever key-changes and abrupt turns. The slow movement begins in sunshine but has a disturbingly violent middle section to which Uchida gives demonic expression. No wonder the affair ended--and thank goodness! --Rick Jones
Top Customer Reviews
Another important point to note with regard to this CD is the sound itself: the instrument she plays is a Steinway piano of one's dreams (those of us who are pianists will appreciate this in particular) and the acoustic, with just the right amount of resonance, is perfect; none of the abrasive, hard piano tone and dull acoustic you get with so many piano recordings from DG or EMI.
If you love the Schubert Sonatas as much as I do, you can't go wrong with this recording.
I much prefer Andres Schiff's Schubert if you need a modern recording- actually he is also too perfect, but more of a natural musician- more spontaneous and alive.
Artur Schnabel's recordings of these late Schubert sonatas have not been bettered. They are lucid, full of spirit and character, simple and masterful.
Wilhelm Kempff's Schubert is wonderful- very poetic readings.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Another important point to note with regard to this CD is the sound itself: the instrument she plays is a one of the most beautiful Steinways I have ever heard, and the acoustic, with just the right amount of resonance, is perfect. It has none of the abrasive, hard piano tone and dull acoustics you get with so many piano recordings from DG or EMI.
In short, you can't go wrong with this recording.
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.
Those who want direct, carefree Schubert won't be turning to Uchida in any case, but I was curious how she might handle the B major sonata D. 575, which expresses a simpler side of Schubert. The first movement has a military boldness that is an interesting match to the later sonata, although the rhythm and harmony have been untangled from bewildering complications. The Scherzo has a somewhat off-kilter gait, while the second theme of the first movement and the main one in the finale trot merrily like a hobbyhorse. Richter is much bolder and more stately, and he's having more fun altogether than Uchida. Her start-stop phrasing and inserted hesitancies don't suit this music as well as they do the A minor sonata. But she's never less than interesting, and even if you do find her fussy, at least there's always care and character on display. I wouldn't object to anyone who gave this CD five stars, and I might have on another day.
One of the peculiarities of Schubert's musical notation is that his diminuendos require a ritard. Schubert's piano music is simply peppered with dims and rits. He was not shy about telling you to slow down when he wants it. So why on earth the extra unneeded ritard at the double bar in the Scherzo? It's just tasteless. This is a scherzo, not a love note. There are diminuendos but they're at m. 47 and 51. That's where you slow down. The effect is supposed to be witty. Uchida's performance is not even a tiny bit witty. Perhaps she has taken the Allegretto mark to mean too few beats per minute.
The "Schlußsatz" of the final movement has a fortissimo figure in octaves at m. 80 that should simply growl -- in contrast to the sweet response and to the later taming of this figure into a pianissimo at m. 104. You will not find much growling on this recording. The version at m. 80 is merely a somewhat louder than that at m. 104.
So if you want to listen to Schubert as gentle background music, where excessive contrast might be too jarring and take your concentration away from what you are actually paying attention to, this would be an ideal choice. Buy it. However, if you prefer to listen to music as a foreground activity, run away from this recording as fast as you can.
Uchida, as always, displays a varied technical arsenal. Her consistent knowledge and keen sensitivity helps her to convey compellingly the deepest treasures of these meaningful and heartfelt scores. The reading is fresh and unconventional with great care for detail, though never remote from the truth of the work as a whole or its character (to use the words of another great interpreter of Schubert, the legendary Alfred Brendel). It is a mixt approach relying on solid Viennese traditions but cheerfully looking for new paths. Despite the celebrity of the A minor sonata (and its strong aromas, see for example the third movement Scherzo or the alluring Andante poco moto), I find the relatively unknown one in B major as a youthful and lightly sample of Schubert's gift for melody and ease of finding fresh harmonic combinations.
Far from being the astounding definitive version of these sonatas, Uchida's reading here is the pulpy fruit of a laudable approach by a great keyboard artist to everlasting masterpieces, proving a deep research and commitment with valuable musical results. Five stars!