Pam Goldberg Plays Schubert – Piano Sonata in A, D. 959; Impromptu in B-flat, D. 935 – MSR

by | May 6, 2023 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Impromptu in B-flat Major, D. 935; Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959; SCHUBERT (arr. Liszt): Staendchen, D. 957 – Pam Goldberg, piano – MSR MS 1823 (11/14/22) (55:13) [Distr. by Albany] ****:

This all-late Schubert recital from 2017 stands as one of those affectionate demonstrations of a gifted pianist, Pam Goldberg, a pupil of chamber music veteran Joseph Kalichstein. By now, Ms. Goldberg’s program has become quite familiar, so we judge her by her easy finesse and realization of Schubert’s especial style. The B-flat Major Impromptu that opens the program, built as a theme-and-variations, offers Goldberg a panoply of colors, lyrical and dramatic, resonantly effected on her Steinway B.  Her execution of runs, triplets, and syncopated, dotted rhythms proves competent and compelling. The extending, natural line of the music has clean flow and internal flux, at once. 

The big work, the epic 1828 Sonata in A Major, calls upon a panoramic sense of scale, given the majestic, first movement Allegro and its reliance on triplet activity to counter the stentorian affect of the opening motif.  A kind of “fate” impulse permeates the various transitions, although it yields to a poetic intimation of tragic nostalgia. The mix becomes contrapuntal and learned, but without pedantry. Goldberg elicits sighs and passionate gestures from the development section, marked by a fateful bass line. Schubert’s occasional harmonic sojourns into circuitous routes receive their color due. Ms. Goldberg in her liner notes mentions Yuja Wang as an inspiration for this piece; happily, some aspects of Wang’s percussive approach do not infiltrate this rendition.

The second movement, the Andantino in F# Minor, stands as Schubert’s corresponding moment of tragic utterance, as that of the same impulse in the second movement of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony. Schubert’s startling middle section in C# Minor torrentially explodes with contrapuntal, toccata figures from Bach, here in a movement of spiritual desolation. After the storm, the consoling lyric of the opening reappears, ornamented by triplets, now even more permeated by wistful nostalgia. Somehow, in the midst of such darkness, we are reminded that F# is the relative minor of the sonata’s key of A, a lesson Schubert may have gleaned from Mozart’s Concerto No. 23, K. 488.
Goldberg’s lightly articulate Scherzo (in C Major) casts a salon intimacy upon the proceedings, akin to the Schubertiads that applauded the composer’s works in his own time. A C# Minor run takes us, by way of some digressions, to the D Major Trio. This otherwise unassuming music suddenly assumes a darker cast, much in the mode of the middle of the preceding movement. Schubert’s earlier, 1817 Sonata, D. 537 slow movement provides the lyrical subject for the Rondo finale in abridged sonata form, with Goldberg’s seamless triplets in abundance. Once more, the intrusion of C# Minor attests to a dark, dramatic impulse in an otherwise beatific moment. Some potent counterpoint makes its presence, highly punctuated and rife with pregnant pauses. A digression into E Major leads us not “astray,” but to a false recapitulation (in F# Minor) prior to Presto coda. Such wonderfully coloristic writing, dark at times but no less songful and supported by a cosmic mirth, produces a grand effect almost in defiance of Beethoven’s notion of keyboard drama. Goldberg in her liner notes dedicates the album to her father, a music lover whose passion has been fruitfully infectious.

The final entry in the program, Schubert’s beloved Serenade (Ständchen) in the Liszt arrangement. Taken from the cycle of songs assembled as his “Swan-Songs,” the piece, as rendered by Liszt’s harmonization and echo effects, achieves a shimmering sonority, suavely impassioned.  

—Gary Lemco

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