Schubert: Music for piano duet [Box Set]

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For listeners who know only Christoph Eschenbach's later work as a conductor in Houston and Philadelphia, this four-disc set from 1978-1979 of Schubert's music for piano duet may come as a surprise. But those with longer memories may recall that before he took up the baton, Eschenbach had made a career for himself as a virtuoso pianist with wonderful recordings to his credit of Chopin and Beethoven on DG from the late '60s and early '70s. By the later '70s, however, Eschenbach's career as a virtuoso had stalled, and, casting about for what to do with himself, he formed a piano duo with pianist Justus Frantz. To judge by this set, theirs was a wholly successful collaboration, because Eschenbach and Frantz were superb pianists who seemed comfortable together on the same piano bench. One never dominates the other and both seem sensitive not only to the demands of the music but to the requirements of the player sitting next to him. While there are more soulful performances of the best-known works in this set -- the F minor Fantasy and the Grand Duo in C major have both received magnificent live recordings by Sviatoslav Richter teamed with Benjamin Britten -- Eschenbach and Frantz's performances are still convincing, and their performances here of the less-well known marches, dances, and divertissements are wholly persuasive. Listeners looking for a complete set of Schubert's music for piano duet need look no further, and listeners looking to find out what Eschenbach was doing before he became a conductor will have their curiosity satisfied. Brilliant's reissue of EMI's stereo recordings are faithful to the originals in depth, warmth, and detail.

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