SCHUBERT: 4 Impromptus, D. 899; Allegretto in C Minor, D. 915; 3 Klavierstuecke,
D. 946 – Javier Perianes, piano – Harmonia mundi  HMI 987080, 70:18 ****:

Recorded 26-28 June 2007, these Schubert works remain among the most popular of Schubert’s late keyboard style, 1827-1828, which loves to exploit harmonic and enharmonic alchemy in the production of facile, often sublime melodies in a decidedly Romantic ethos. Javier Perianes cares deeply for these pieces, and his applications on the C Minor and A-flat Minor impromptus often recall my first encounter with these sweet compositions under the hands of Artur Schnabel, while it was Dinu Lipatti who for me first plied the Chopinesque ecstasies of the E-flat Major and G-flat Major.

Perianes’ darkly thoughtful ministrations upon the C Minor place the piece in the Beethoven circle of dramatic furies, especially the four-note “fate” motif that inserts itself in the development. Easy, fluent runs in the style of an etude mark the E-flat’s progress, interrupted by an “orchestral” carillon of lyrical power. Perianes combines rapid articulation with intimacy of scale, a fine balance. I like that Perianes utilizes the more extended edition of the E-flat Minor and E-flat Major Klavier-pieces from D. 946, so often chopped into some editor’s notion of appropriate length. The G-flat Impromptu enjoys all the soft eroticism of Liszt, only more ingenuous. After its opening pearly runs, the A-flat Minor sings out its middle section cello line with slow, patrician grace. The middle section reverts to the drama of the C Minor, an impassioned aria over a fevered bass.

The Sphinx-like Allegretto in C Minor was no less a Schnabel staple. Composed in 1827, it has a spare and melancholy affect, periodically moving from C Minor to E-flat Major. It embodies a reluctant sense of farewell, a dominant aspect of the Schubert oeuvre. Perianes plays the piece for its vague mystery, its tight-lipped resignation, its ambiguous codetta of mixed feelings.  The middle section, in A-flat Minor, offers little consolation, only a long leading tone that falls on our hearts.

The D. 946 works each basks–except for the wickedly bravura C Major–in that “heavenly length” of which Schubert was capable in the exercise of divine inspiration and often audacious imagination. The repeated notes in the opening E-flat Minor convert clangor into softest reflection. So, too, the middle of the E-flat Major commands us in a way reminiscent of Wilhelm Kempff’s powerful renderings of this mighty piece. Perianes elicits a rounded, velvet tone from his chosen instrument (unnamed, but I would warrant a Hamburg Steinway D) throughout this exemplary album of fine Schubert playing from a gifted initiate into his special world.

— Gary Lemco