R. STRAUSS: Piano Sonata in B Minor, Op. 5; MOZART: Piano Sonata in F Major, K. 332; SCHUMANN: Piano Sonata in G Minor, Op. 22 – Jon Sigurdsson, piano – Polarfonia PFCD 10.04.017-1, 62:45 ****:
Pianist Jon Sigurdsson, of Icelandic heritage and venue–a pupil of Ruth Slenczynska, Erika Haase, and Edith-Picht Axenfeld–has chosen a curious mix for his 2008-09 recital, opening with the eclectically youthful Piano Sonata in B Minor (1881), a piece Glenn Gould revealed to us all some thirty years ago. The obvious “borrowings” from Beethoven’s C Minor Symphony notwithstanding, the work maintains an appeal by virtue of its passionately strident outpouring, complemented by a rather Schumannesque lyrical side. Pianist Sigurdsson makes pretty tone, and his bolder applications–on the Steinway D–do not become so percussive as to wax ugly. The Adagio cantabile, especially, presents an unbroken song in the manner of Mendelssohn, alternately flowing and playfully skittish in its middle section, almost catty by way of Grieg. The Scherzo offers an etude in speedy riffs and broken chords in syncopes; then a Trio Un poco piu lento that again invokes Grieg. A folk element permeates the loping gait of the Finale, some of whose chords revert to Beethoven and Schumann. Once the dance proceeds–harmonically and polyphonically–Schumann appears to welcome boldly heroic influences from friend Schubert.
The Mozart Piano Sonata No .12 in F Major, K. 332 (1783)–an old Horowitz staple–allows Sigurdsson to bask in its delicate tracery, often in the empfindsamkeit mode of Mozart’s predecessor, C.P.E. Bach, especially the exquisite Adagio in B-flat Major. Sigurdsson molds the opening movement with tender affection, happily repeating the stylistic courtesy to the Adagio. The rapid 6/8 Allegro assai bursts forth with manly vigor, shapely and architecturally canny. The four-beat bass line asserts itself neatly, the harmonies occasionally becoming audacious in the passing way that Mozart can anticipate much of our musical future. The Alberti figures and Mozart’s idiosyncratic bravura combine elegantly through Sigurdsson, whose intelligently rapt fluency will doubtless invite more Mozart invitations of the same high order.
Schumann’s G Minor Piano Sonata (1836-1838) synthesizes his desire to adhere to traditional classical forms while expressing fully his rapturous multifaceted personality, even while celebrating and adjusting his earlier “Concerto without orchestra” meant for Clara Wieck. The driving syncopes and brilliant colors thrown in to the relative major pose no hardship for Sigurdsson, who maintains Schumann’s capricious first-movement indications about ever faster tempos. The mercurial but through-composed fire may still relate to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Kreisler, celebrated in Schumann’s Op. 16. The 6/8 Andantino contrasts immediately with its simple charm and rocking motion, a throwback to elements from Kinderszenen. The Scherzo concentrates Schumann’s agogic impulses even more, to a mere sixty-four bars, of which only eight are to be repeated. The final Rondo compresses the whole idea of sonata-form into a tripartite structure, a lesson Schumann leaned from Beethoven’s Ninth. Sigurdsson makes a well-wrought case for both suppleness and subtlety of expression, his middle and upper registers a pearly flow of running figures. The three-hand effects come off in brilliant array, the performance as mature in spirit as it is enthusiastic. A master of several styles, this talent from the Northern lights.
— Gary Lemco