Alain Planès

Schubert: The Great Piano Sonatas [Box Set]

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Recorded by Harmonia Mundi between 1996 and 2006, this collection of 13 of Schubert's 21 piano sonatas plus his best-known other works for the piano including the "Wanderer" Fantasie, the two sets of Impromptus, the six Moments musicaux, and the Drei Klavierstücke would be an ideal standard reference set of the composer's piano music except for one thing: Alain Planès' interpretations are anything but ideal. Because while Planès' technique is essentially impeccable -- no matter how difficult things get in the fugal finale of the "Wanderer" Fantasie and no matter how wild things get in the Andantino of the big A major Sonata, Planès never misses a note -- his interpretations are anything but appropriate. This is not to say that Planès doesn't know exactly what he's doing. Every melody, harmony, and rhythm is carefully considered and deliberately placed. It is to say that Planès' Schubert doesn't sound like Schubert. His phrasing lacks the inward quality that distinguishes Schubert's melodies, his progressions lack the yearning quality that distinguishes Schubert's harmonies, and his structures lack the spontaneous quality that distinguishes Schubert's forms. In a word, Planès' Schubert sounds mundane -- and if Schubert were not the quintessential poet of German romantic idealism in music, Planès' performances would certainly be acceptable. But despite his undoubted virtuosity, his performances are regrettably unacceptable. Harmonia Mundi's digital sound is a bit too close and a tad too dry.

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