Paul Lewis

Schubert: The Late Piano Sonatas

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For a number of years, the piano music of Ludwig van Beethoven has dominated the recordings of British pianist Paul Lewis on Harmonia Mundi, though since 2011 he has also recorded the sonatas of Franz Schubert, an equal interest to him. This 2014 album of the last four piano sonatas may bring with it expectations of a grand statement: the late piano sonatas, like the final string quartets, the piano trios, the String Quintet, the last songs, and other works of 1828 carry with them the gravitas of Schubert's illness and impending death, and some aspect of the composer's mortality is usually addressed in performances of these works. Lewis is qualified to offer meaningful interpretations of Schubert's artistic intentions, though what might not be expected is the weightlessness, ease, energy, and joy that he communicates in these sonatas, expressive choices that rises above the biographical. They are masterfully played and marvelously recorded, so such technical matters don't interfere with the pure appreciation of the music. Drama and pathos are here, of course, along with tenderness and lyricism, but Lewis doesn't dwell morbidly on the darker aspects, preferring instead to let the light shine through. It certainly does in all four works, and even though there are moments of intense passion, gloom, and even fury, one comes away from hearing these sonatas with a sense of the wholeness of Schubert's conceptions, including his ineffable serenity, and Lewis' balanced choices are fully justified. Highly recommended.

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