Daniel Barenboim

Schubert: Piano Sonatas

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Somewhat surprisingly, Daniel Barenboim recorded the 11 complete piano sonatas of Franz Schubert for the first time between 2013 and 2014, thus making this Deutsche Grammophon box set an important first-time release. For admirers of Barenboim's intellectual depth and clean playing, his approach to these works may be ideal, because Schubert's music is always vulnerable to overly ripe or sloppy interpretations, and it takes a balance of ideas and emotions to convey the essence of the sonatas. While Barenboim has established himself as a masterful accompanist in Schubert, playing chamber works and lieder cycles, he has touched the solo keyboard works less often. However, these performances of the sonatas are as cogent and competent as if he had specialized in them for decades. Touch is critical in Schubert, and Barenboim's refined playing shows a remarkable control of dynamics, colors, and shadings, which, together with his eloquent phrasing and careful use of the pedals, make it subtle and compelling for its variety. While the studio recordings are a bit dry, presumably to aid in clarity, the piano has a slightly ringing quality in the upper register and a warm middle to low range, so it has an attractive tone without studio enhancements. Highly recommended.

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