Rudolf Buchbinder

Schubert: Impromptus, D 899; Sonata, D 960

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Veteran pianist Rudolf Buchbinder has recorded these Schubert works in the past, but entering his later career he has revisited familiar repertoire in live recordings. This one, from a Vienna auditorium, contains frustrating features, but its boldness brings an X factor that consistently holds the listener's interest. Buchbinder's general orientation in Schubert is not toward the chamber side, the select circle of friends who got what he was doing, but toward Schubert the large-scale thinker who understood Beethoven perhaps better than anyone else of his time. This is Schubert as high drama, not only in the Piano Sonata in B flat major, D. 960, but even in the four Impromptus, D. 899, which are anything but impromptus in Buchbinder's readings. Hear the fascinating tentative opening of the Impromptu No. 1 in C minor, or the extremely ominous rumbling that Buchbinder makes of the recurring low trill in the first movement of the sonata, generally treated as a kind of decorative transitional device. The latter is indicative of Buchbinder's serious, monumental approach to the sonata as a whole. Sometimes, as in the slow movement, you wonder what all the pounding is about. But the entire thing is both original and well-executed, and you tend to accept Buchbinder's argument that live performance brings a valuable spontaneous approach. Among the dozens of recordings of these pieces on the market, this one doesn't sound much like any other.

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