Gottlieb Wallisch

Schubert: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2, 3 & 6

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The abstract for this disc on its back claims that "...Schubert's Sonatas are now regarded as among the greatest works for piano." That's stretching it for the three particular sonatas included on this disc by Gottlieb Wallisch. These are early sonatas, and they don't quite have the maturity of emotion or construction found in Schubert's more popular late sonatas, which are among the greatest works for piano. Movements that were published separately or were never finished make up Sonatas No. 2 and No. 6, although musicologists agree the movements go together. No. 3 actually is a complete sonata that the publisher inexplicably entitled "Five Pieces." Wallisch plays the sonatas in a rational, pleasing way, more as if they were Mozart or Haydn sonatas. The opening theme of Sonata No. 2 and the second theme of its unfinished finale might normally be more forcefully played, but Wallisch doesn't press them. He balances them against the elegance of the Andante and first theme of the finale. There is a large amount of playfulness in the Sonata No. 3, which Wallisch treats as delicate teasing. His attitude is even banter-like in the Allegro patetico, rather than affected as the tempo marking implies. He puts together all four movements of the Sonata No. 6, which is performed just as frequently in the originally published two-movement version or in a version with just the Scherzo attached. He again doesn't force anything, but keeps any drama modestly in check. Wallisch, throughout, also has a finely detailed and controlled touch that makes each phrase nicely distinct. The sound is satisfactorily warm and not too expansive. It all evokes the scene of one of Schubert's evenings of home music making, with music that is interesting, has attractive melodies and textures, and enough contrast in dynamics and mood to hold attention but not demand the listener's full, emotional involvement.

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