Paul Badura-Skoda

Schubert: Les Sonates pour le Pianoforte, 1

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While this first volume of Paul Badura-Skoda's survey of the complete piano sonatas of Franz Schubert is notable for the use of lovingly restored period pianos, even more compelling are the pianist's affectionate interpretations. Mixing mostly early sonatas with a few middle period works, the Austrian pianist creates appealing programs on all three discs. And using four different period instruments for the eight works, he creates distinctive sound worlds for each. Most often he plays a sprightly Conrad Graf, ca. 1825, but sometimes he uses a warm-toned Donath Schöfftos, ca. 1810, and once he uses a ca. 1815 George Hasska with a sweetly singing middle register, a slightly pingy upper register and, as the closing Allegretto demonstrates, a delightful faux-cymbal and drum extension. But it is Badura-Skoda's keen understanding of and profound affection for Schubert's sonatas that is most impressive. Even in the first sonata, from the composer's seventeenth year (D. 157), the pianist finds the kind of lyrical themes, emotional depths, and original turns of thought that mark Schubert's music. In the fourteenth sonata, written years later (D. 840), Badura-Skoda brings out the transcendent inspirations and tragic impulses that characterize the composer's later works. Recorded in close, atmospheric digital sound, these performances will likely remain among the finest ever recorded.

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