Germany's K&K label specializes in live recordings of the connoisseur sort, held in historically interesting settings. The Castle Concert Series discs feature pianists holding forth at the Schloss (Castle) Bad Homburg, in southwestern Germany, several of them playing numbered and beautifully photographed Bechstein grand pianos. The concerts are nicely recorded, with a great variety of "voices" coming from the piano. In a concert setting of this kind, performers and presenters can take chances, which is all to the good. Young German pianist Franz Vorraber offers unorthodox performances of Schubert standards that won't be to everyone's taste but that definitely stretch the brains and the ears and don't radically depart from the score. The four Impromptus of Op. 90 are sharply differentiated from one another, and Vorraber makes them into pieces with a more public character than they are usually given. One imagines that Liszt might have played them this way; the virtuoso aspect is emphasized, the character-piece, meditative quality is minimized. Hear the Impromptu in A flat major, Op. 90/4 (track 5 -- the mysterious "Concert Start" in the track list is merely crowd noise), whose long arpeggios are clearly articulated, giving them a unique skittery quality rather than the liquid flow of memory they usually evoke. The opening Impromptu in C minor, Op. 90/1, is taken in an almost stolid rhythm; curious, but it does create an arc lasting through the entire performance. The Wanderer Fantasy in C major, Op. 15, is very strong, again with sharp contrasts among its sections and a real sense of the improvisation from which Schubert's music is always just a few steps away. Less deeply convincing than Lilya Zilberstein's Beethoven disc in the same series, this is nevertheless a stimulating group of performances.
by James Manheim
|Impromptus (4) for piano, D. 899 (Op. 90)|