Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Album Review: Paul Lewis, Schubert: Piano Sonatas D.840, 850 & 894

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Pianist Paul Lewis recently completed a massive Beethoven cycle that included recordings for Harmonia Mundi of the complete sonatas and piano concertos, so the musical chronology would suggest that Franz Schubert would be the next composer on Lewis’s list. The Viennese holy trinity of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all wrote piano sonatas and their spirit hovers over Schubert’s early sonatas, but the late sonatas, Impromptus and Klavierstücke that Lewis performs here are from a new world where fuller more poetic expression reigns without the shackles of form. Lewis is a masterful guide to this new world.
If you have been following his career, you’ll know that Lewis is not new to Schubert. He’s partnered with Mark Padmore for a series of revelatory recordings of the composer’s great song cycles and has recorded early sonatas and chamber music. Still, as excellent as those recordings are, he trumps them with this album. Lewis brings penetrating intelligence, virtuosity and taste to this late music. His mastery of touch and tone makes sense of the Sonata in C Major’s reiterated passages. Elegance, wit and virtuosity mark his performance of the Sonata in D Major with an opening Allegro that drives forcefully but musically, a Scherzo both pugnacious and poetic, and a delightful Rondo (which Robert Schumann criticized) that’s laced with wry humor.
Lewis’s performances of the Four Impromptus Op. 90 and Three Klavierstücke D. 946 are magnificent. Written in 1827 – 1828 (the last years of the composer’s life) this is Schubert at his most moving, melancholy, frantic and lyrical. Lewis brilliantly crafts each one of these pieces. He lays on the intensity to a pained breaking point in the C minor impromptu and balances the feverish and sedate qualities of the Klavierstücke.

Click to sample and buy the album

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