Another in the eminently successful series of Schubert readings by pianist Leif Ove Andnes (rec. April-October, 2006), assisted by the resonant artistry of Ian Bostridge in selected Schubert lieder. The C Minor Sonata, one of the three masterpieces of September 1828, borrows most heavily upon Beethoven’s legacy in C Minor, such as the Pathetique Sonata and the Variations in C Minor. Andnes maintains a tight rein on the dramatic, propulsive thrust of this dark music’s hammer blows, its melancholy E-flat theme, its running figures with their martial tint of an ongoing struggle. Andnes‚ playing of the solemn A-flat Adagio may remind auditors of the pointedly thoughtful musings of the Schnabel school in this tragic song. Obsessive yet tender, the music moves to an eerie A Major placed side by side with the A-flat tonality, an uneasy truce with fate. The Menuetto is a pre-Brahms interlude, meditated by a Viennese middle section. A deft tarantella concludes this epic sonata, with its hints of B Major Der Erlkoenig. A single-minded rhythmic impulse pushes us towards emotional chasms, caverns measureless to man.
Schubert was beguiled by the image of the Old Harper from Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship: the themes of pervasive guilt, alienation, and wandering as penance were universal Romantic motifs. The opening lied, a cavatina to real solitude, even devoid of intrusive suffering, might well suit Marquez’s novel devoted to the same notion. Andnes‚ piano provides both the harp and the chromatic agony of the thought. The second lied celebrates a beggar’s lonely wandering, seeking alms and eliciting pity from those who aid him. The third pushes the conceit of exile even further, a moment of Silenus’ wisdom, making us wish we had never been born. The Gravedigger’s Homesickness combines Hamlet’s scene with Yorick’s skull with Mahler’s morbid sarcasm. Byronic in tone and harmony, this song, executed with bitter authority by Bostridge and Andnes, haunts the imagination long after the last chord decays.
The little song, Duty and Love, ties in with the Gravedigger’s lament, with an androgynous touch that might appeal to Camille Paglia. Lebensmut is a carpe diem sentiment, a quick leap of faith and existential courage. Huricane Katrina could have provided the text for Johanna Sebus, a melodramatic song of flood and rescue lacking only Lillian Gish to complete the image. The piano part rings with dark eddies and plunging whirlpools; a pity it ends incomplete. Of the three piano fragments, the Allegretto in C, D. 346 has a distinct kinship with the Marches militaires and Sonata, D. 279; unfortunately, the other little rondo, the D. 348, breaks off just after the dramatically contrasting theme. Every note, however truncated, is pure beauty, played by a loving pair of Schubert acolytes.
— Gary Lemco