David Fray

Schubert: Fantasie

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The booklet notes for this release by French pianist David Fray, his second of Schubert's music, outline a somewhat diffuse pair of themes for the recording: it explores the idea of the fantasy or, in French, fantaisie, in Schubert's music, as well as his elevation of the genre of music for piano four-hands. The album doesn't work that well in these terms: "fantasy" at the time was a diffuse concept with several meanings, and the term was added to the main-attraction Piano Sonata in G major, D. 894, only by Schubert's publisher. And the four-hand music, played by Fray and his teacher Jacques Rouvier, is a bit outweighed by the sonata. None of this matters: the performance of the Piano Sonata in G major is extraordinary. Consider the third movement, marked Minuetto but generally given a Beethovenian heft in the big opening chords. Fray damps everything down and restores it to the dimensions most of Schubert's music, written for small circles of connoisseurs, would have had in the beginning, and throughout the work he constructs extremely subtle contrasts from a muted palette. The result is often astonishingly lyrical and affecting, evocative of inward realms. The presence of the rarely heard Hungarian Melody in B minor, D. 817, is another strong attraction. The four-hand pieces are not quite as distinctive, but they do show that Fray's interpretation of the sonata is not simply a mannerism of his playing but a conscious decision, and they are solidly and precisely done. A very strong and unusual Schubert recording.

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