SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in A Minor, D. 845; Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959 – Thomas Guenther, fortepiano – Cybele

by | Jun 25, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in A Minor, D. 845; Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959 – Thomas Guenther, fortepiano – Cybele Multichannel SACD 140.402, 73:12 ****:

Performing on a Streicher fortepiano from 1848, pianist Thomas Guenther plays two imposing Schubert sonatas, of which the A Minor (1825) was the first published in the composer’s lifetime. The opening movement’s solemn, martial character is set as a series of declamations, and their occasional ferocity is not enervated by the fortepiano’s somewhat lighter action than the modern Steinway. More taxing, perhaps, is the Andante poco moto, a theme and variations whose filigree, rhythmically and harmonically, becomes audacious and even virtuosic. After a shift to A-flat Major, a bit of Viennese laendler appears, a 9/8 section which plays like an impromptu and scurries off into the distance. Both skittish and martial, the Scherzo throws repeated notes and syncopations at us, quite asymmetrical the entire affair. Guenther effects a charming sense of repose into the pastoral trio section, which might share with Chopin’s Op. 20 Scherzo an affect of Noel. The last movement is a moto perpetuo in the manner of Beethoven’s D Minor “Tempest” Sonata, but here filled with thunder and drums. The puny attempts of an A Major melody to spread some light into the storm are dispelled by a stretta of impassioned despair.

The A Major Sonata (1828) reigns, along with the C Minor Sonata and B-flat Major Sonata, in a kind of holy triumvirate of Schubert’s last great works.  Guenther takes the opening Allegro as an alternately fierce and melancholic musical clock, marking out large periods of sound, almost the way another Gunther (named Wand) would map out a Bruckner symphony. The Bach polyphony urges itself in dark colors, a forecast of the Andantino’s visceral, contrapuntal cries of pain. The middle of the opening movement opens up broadly singing, much like the Klavierstucke No. 1 from D. 946. The sonority of the Streicher piano in this music is quite ghostly, the invocation of another, unseen world. The 3/8 Andantino itself plays out as a series of laments and sighs, interrupted by Gothic, chromatic catastrophe. The rapid, downward, shifting arpeggios of the Scherzo prove most tonic after the Usher-like gloom of the first two movements. While the trio evinces troubled waters, the calm is enough to allay our fears; although the close miking of Guenther’s breathing gives us pause. Guenther indulges himself and his period instrument in the heavenly theme of the Rondo, whose density and force of expression increases and could easily be thought to be Beethoven’s. When Guenther brings in the theme from the first movement in the course of his whirling stretti, we feel that a mighty journey has come full circle.

— Gary Lemco

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure