SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata No. 19; Piano Sonata No. 16 – Louis Schwizgebel, p. – Aparte

The youthful Louis Schwizgebel imparts poetry and virile motion to these two Schubert sonatas.

SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata No. 19 in c, D. 958; Piano Sonata No. 16 in a, D. 845 – Louis Schwizgebel, p. – Aparte AP133, 70:00 (10/7/16) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****: 

Swiss-Chinese pianist Louis Schwizgebel (b. 1987) sports a Romantic temperament, much imbibed by studies with Brigitte Meyers, Pascal Deveoyon, and Emanuel Ax. This recording of two Schubert sonatas (17-18 March 2016) attests to an artistic maturity that complements his considerable digital skills. The massive c minor Sonata of 1828 pays several debts to Beethoven, including an opening theme that quotes Beethoven’s Variations in c minor, WoO 80, with its own chromatic chords in ¾. The tone of ominous and dire fate will soften as the music proceeds, until by the last movement Allegro a sense of frivolous, cantering repartee. The Adagio, an affecting rondo in A-flat Major in 2/4, combines a spiritual anguish with moments of serenity, much in the form of an extended lied. Here, pianist Schizgebel makes points for his canny sense of color. Besides the gambol of the Menuetto & Trio, the last movement ushers in a potent, rising scalar passage in D-flat Major that can stun in context, among the various competing rhythms and emotional whims of the music. The persistent gallop serves as a kind of moto perpetuo in 6/8 whose sudden sforzatos ring with much of Beethoven’s authority.  Mr. Schwizgebel has made this music sing and dance without having become percussively insistent, without cloying his melodies, and having maintained an artful balance of form and color most impressive to this listener.

The Premiere Grande Sonate in a (pub. Pennauer) of 1826 projects a lyric quality we find in other compositions in the same key, like the String Quartet, D. 804 and the Arpeggione Sonata of 1824. The opening movement Moderato projects a bleakly martial atmosphere, sporadically softened by flowing phrases in C Major and unusual modulations, often involving the anxious staccato chords. Schubert’s incorporation of his lied Totengraeben Heinwehe (The Gravedigger’s Longing) into the grueling coda intensifies the funereal atmosphere. Schgwizgebel keeps the motion of this uneasy music moving, even while breathing ardent life into the movement’s periodic structure.  The theme and variations of the ensuing Andante con moto made Schubert’s audience react positively in his own lifetime. The 3/8 theme in C Major proceeds to five lengthy variations. At first happy and subdued, the second and third variants introduce a note of melancholy that palls – in c minor – the remainder of the movement. While variation four returns to the major, the final variation retains an ambiguity of feeling. The Scherzo hustles in five-bar phrases in a sturdy rhythm, followed by a gently luminous Laendler (Trio) in F Major. Schwizgebel imbues the contrary motions of this movement with poertic and virile energy. Commentators attribute much of the writing in the finale, Rondo (Allegro vivace, 2/4) to the influence of Mozart’s dark Sonata in a, K. 310. With its alternately persistent or shifting motions, the music has an unnerving, threatening quality that only its central episode dispels with radiant poignancy. Schwizgebel’s Yamaha instrument remains bright and piercing throughout this recital, its glittering patina captured by Nicolas Bartholomee and Emilie Ruby.

—Gary Lemco

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