Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Amazing disc, a very unique and personal view of Schubert
John Grabowski | USA | 06/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Only one review below, and this disc is virtually unknown and out of print, while people go on listening to pianists like Perahia and Brendel and Uchida! This is probably the most original and persuasive statement on D 960 I've ever heard. This disc should be getting more attention. I've heard Afanassiev can be very eccentric across the board, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't Here I can say it works.
Afanassiev takes the odder elements of this piece--the strange bass rumblings, the suddenly pauses, the shift of emotional gears between ii and iii and iii and iv--and runs with them rather than deemphasizing them. I have no idea (nor do I care) if this is "how Schubert actually played it," but I do know one thing: this approach emphasized for me how avant-garde this sonata was for the time without detracting from the structure and flow. In other words, Afanassiev really makes you hear a work you know by heart with fresh ears, as though we were privy to one of the first performances of the work. (Ugorski, whether you agree with his interpretations or not, has that same quality.) Afanassiev doesn't always find tension in the places you expect, and his climaxes aren't the same as other pianists', but that's okay too.
His sound is clear, like looking into a still pond, although on second hearing I could have used more color in spots. (Radu Lupu paints the most beautiful colors, but he doesn't take the time to linger over some delicious phrases like VA does here.) The word "luminous" is such a cliche, but it's true in this movement, which has a strange stillness unique even to Schubert. ***But*** there's one key moment where Afanassiev flunks--the great spot, about 2/3 through, where Schubert shifts from c-minor to c-sharp. In the best hands (Schnabel, Richter) it's magical and ethereal, but Afanassiev fails to make the most of it. The third movement is light and gay and filled with gentle sunshine, and the finale does *not* charge ahead, but works on its own terms and does not fall into the fatal trap of sounding monotonous and repetitive (Lupu again, Brendel, Kovacevich and especially Arrau.)
This is one of those reviews that are tough to write, because no matter what I say, the words don't do justice. I am reminded of the old saying "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." It's too bad this release is such a sleeper, but along with several other ECMs I've gotten recently I must say I'm generally impressed by both performances and sound. (This is a live 1986 account, but the audience is totally silent until the end and there is no reason to avoid this disc for fear of extraneous noise.) Just ignore the flaky liner notes, written by the pianist himself, and grab this disc. It's one for the desert island."
A profound, emotionally charged reading
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 02/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know if Valery Afanassiev prefers anonymity or simply limits his appearances outside Europe. Despite a handful of recordings accompanying violinist gidon Kremer, he has left few footprints in the catalog. Here is a live 1985 performance of Schubert's posthumous sonata in B-flat D. 960, recorded at Kremer's festival in Lockenhaus. Clearly Afanassievtravels in the most elite musical company, and one can hear why. No one who loves Schubert can come away without being not just deeply moved but astonished at the transcendent musicality on display here.I've treasured readdings of this sonata from Schnabel, Serkin, Richter, Pollini, and more, but Afanassiev finds a vein of expressive genius even they never reached. One is struck by the slow pace of the first movement.
Tempos range from deliberate to very slow, yet once Afanassiev begins to cast his spell, external matters like tempo and dynamics fade quickly -- his intense subjectivity by a kind of alchemy isn't self-indulgent or arbitrary. It sounds absolutely true to a profound vision. Like every other reviewer of this CD, I'm beginning to babble. This is music-making beyond description, capable of inspiring joy and tears at the same time. Althoug the CD release from ECM may be out of rpint, it can be heard and downloaded online at Real Rhapsody. I can't wait to sample Afanassiev's complete Beethoven concertos, not to mention another double-CD of late Schubert as soon as possible.