Severin von Eckardstein

Franz Schubert: Sonatas D. 840 & D. 959

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In his murky booklet notes for this release, German pianist Severin von Eckardstein does manage one clear statement by way of justifying his addition to the already substantial body of recordings of Schubert's piano sonatas: "In these two sonatas," he writes, "there are so many musical details to discover that I cannot rid myself of the idea of offering a new version." That remark points to the overall quality of the music-making here, especially in the main attraction, the Piano Sonata in A major, D. 959. Eckardstein finds all kinds of detail in this music, including some that doubtless would have been a surprise to Schubert himself. For just one example, consider the finale of the A major sonata, where the movement's main theme is stated in the left hand after its initial appearance and the consequent material. Eckardstein plays the right-hand accompanimental material extremely quietly here, and then makes a whole long crescendo out of this accompanimental material leading up to the E major cadence some time later. Details like this, and there are plenty where the listener's attention is drawn away from the basic thematic structure of the music, tend to obscure the long line of the work, but many listeners take Schubert's ultimate sonatas, finished in the last days of his life, as fantasy-like pieces without much of a long line. The Piano Sonata in C major, D. 840, "Relique," which is unfinished, only strengthens this line of argument. Eckardstein manages to make not only this work but even the substantial outer movements of the A major sonata sound a bit like giant Impromptus, and his fingers certainly produce an impressive and poetic variety of textures. This is one of those recordings where the listener's conception of the music may determine much of the response, but it's worth remembering that soberer performances, from Rudolf Serkin on down, have found more balance in the A major sonata than is heard here. Booklet notes are in German, French, and English.

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