Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Franz [Vienna] Schubert, Rudolf Serkin|
Schubert: Piano Sonata D. 960; Piano Sonata D. 840 "Reliquie"
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A DIFFICULT CALL
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 02/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"By now I have more or less concluded that I shall never hear my ideal performance of Schubert's great last sonata. This is partly down to my feeling that it is not a completely satisfactory piece. It starts with one of the most sublime sequences that Schubert or anyone ever conceived, but then the thematic material goes downhill a bit, ending, I really think, in sheer triviality. The `development' then picks up the trivial motif and transforms it back into utter sublimity, but then again the end of the movement is perfunctory and inadequate. The slow movement and finale, though good, do not strike me as being anywhere near equal to their counterparts in the great companion pieces in C minor and A major either. Nobody has cracked the problem to my satisfaction. Curzon and Zacharias are probably the safest bets, particularly Curzon who takes an unusually flowing tempo in the opening molto moderato. The biggest `personalities' among interpreters that I know are a bit controversial - Richter's speed in the first movement I believe to be ridiculously slow whatever anyone tells me to the contrary, and I have never reconciled myself to Serkin's handling of the very end of the work where I think he uses too much pedal. Once Serkin made up his mind, of course, there was no changing it, and that is the way he does the sequence in the other recording I have from him, and that is the way he did it when I heard him live. With these great players one often has to take what one doesn't greatly like for the sake of the things that made them so special. The slow movement, for me, needs charm, and one might as well expect charm from the prophet Isaiah as from the prophet Serkin. I still can't make up my mind whether I like his scherzo or not - it may be a touch too slow, but on the other hand there is the shadow of death over this movement, as there is over the start of the piece right from its third note, and one `controversial' touch that appeals to me strongly is the typical emphasis that Serkin gives to the sforzandos in the trio. So far as I know, Serkin only ever played the last three Schubert sonatas - and the so-called Reliquie. Many years ago, when Serkin was at the height of his fashionableness, I saw a routine-minded review that informed me that `Serkin brings all his interpretative powers to it' or some such phrase. It is not expressing any value-judgment to say that that is precisely what he does not do. The composer's markings are visibly incomplete, and Serkin refuses to go beyond them. The wonderful development section in the first movement manifestly recalls Erlkoenig with its drumming repeated triplets and its anguished `Mein Vater, mein Vater' minor ninth at the climax. Brendel supplies the crescendo that the passage is crying out for, but Serkin will not go a step beyond what the composer has explicitly indicated. The excellent recent biography does not shed any light on what may have been in Serkin's mind in recording this piece in the first place. It is quite obviously a symphony in piano score and not a piano composition at all. Much of the orchestration is glaringly easy to supply. I do not know the ins and outs of the scholarly arguments regarding the identity of the lost `Gastein' symphony except that it was supposed to have been in C major, and I absolutely do not buy Tovey's candidate the Grand Duo. The Great C Major itself seemed to be the front-runner last time I heard anything about it, but I wonder whether there has been enough attention given to the possibility that this is it - the Reliquie. One way or another the first movement is utterly marvellous, and among Schubert's million modulations I would point to the two near the end of the exposition and recapitulation as being the most astounding of all. A very notable record indeed, and I feel like an economist arguing on the one hand and on the other hand. If I've managed to make it anywhere near clear why I think about it the way I do, that's all I can expect to have achieved."
Rudolf Serkin Plays Schubert Piano Sonatas
M. Levitt | Philadelphia, PA USA | 11/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Pianist Rudolf Serkin offers a fine version of the Schubert
Piano Sonata no.21 in Bb Major, D. 960. If it isn't quite in
the same class as those of Stephen Kovacevich (EMI) or
Wilhelm Kempff (on Deutsche Gramophone), Rudolf Serkin's
performance is quite sensitive, well judged, well paced,
lyrical and an altogether excellent version typical of
this master pianist.
By comparison, I think Serkin's performance of the
so-called "Relique" Sonata, the best known of Schubert's
unfinished piano sonatas, isn't quite as satisfying as
either his Schubert Piano Sonata, D.960, or the version
I know by pianist Sviatoslav Richter, who is one of the
greatest interpreters of Schubert. I wish it were possible
to rate this CD 4.5 stars. Since it isn't, my rating is
4 stars with the above caveats.
The Schubert Sonata, D. 960 was recorded in 1975; the
Schubert "Relique" Sonata, D.840 was recorded in 1955.
The timing is a little over 79".
Recommended particularly for those who love the
Schubert Piano Sonatas and collect multiple
versions of this wonderful music, and fans of
pianist Rudolf Serkin.