Recorded 13-15 March 2007 at Hawksyard Priory, Rugeley, Staffordshire, UK on a Yamaha CF111S concert grand, this pungent set of Schubert 4-hand staples captures the sensibility of the Schubertiads to warmly transparent effect. The Sonata in C Major, the so-called Grand Duo of 1824, offers the kind of large scale composition that Joachim orchestrated because of its “symphonic” proportions. Written for Karoline and Marie Esterhazy von Galanta, the piece must attest to the girls’ keyboard talent, since the expansiveness and floridity of the parts calls for liquid bravura often. The A-flat Major Andante presents several walking and marching motifs, either solo or harmonized in periods that surely influenced Bruckner’s sense of form. An air of decidedly ominous power intrudes along side the more skittish figures, the sonic world alternately rich and starkly desolate. A false coda leads to another planet which only reluctantly yields to convention. Schiller and Humphreys turn the Scherzo into a thrilling carillon whose F Minor trio rings with Poe and Wilkie Collins. The last movement’s Hungarian ethos and repeated notes certainly provided Brahms with musical nutrients enough for his own F Minor Piano Quintet.
The Four Laendler from July 1824 extend our affection for Schubert’s homage to the Viennese coutryside and his own infinite capacity for melodic invention. We wander through E-flat, A-flat, C Minor and C Major in serene colors. A theme with eight variations, Schubert’s D. 813, proves a work of substance, certainly on a par with his Rosamunde variants from the A Minor Quartet and his imitative impromptu. A march in A-flat Major generates a number of responses, especially in triplet figures. The spirit of Beethoven–and the composer’s own Death and the Maiden–invades several spaces in this brilliant display piece, which has our two principals working in alternately lighted and somber hues. The extensive maze of effects concludes with a siciliano seeking martial glory.
The recital ends with Six Grand Marches and Trios, No. 2 in G Minor and No. 3 in B Minor, again from 1824. Highly syncopated and aggressive–quite Schumannesque–the pieces take on a high gloss and piercing resonance from this piano duo, who well might be mistaken for the slick polish of the Labeques. The B Minor March, with its trio in the tonic major, elicits an ambivalence reminiscent of the second of his Drei Klavierstuecke, D. 946. A miniature sonata in its own right, this piece deserves more than the esoteric collector’s infrequent audition.
— Gary Lemco