SCHUBERT: Sonata in D, D 850; 16 Landler, D 734; 3 Piano Pieces, D 946 – Bela Hartmann, piano – Meridian 84594, 78:44 ***1/2:
Schubert’s D-major sonata is one of the cheeriest, brightest, and most magnificent of all his creations. It’s very opening movement almost defies any ideas of death, internal conflict, or cloudy horizons. In fact, one may even make the assumption that this work comes closest to the Haydn-like love of life and happiness as anything Schubert ever penned. Not that his toolbox is anything like Haydn—at this point there was little resemblance. But he uses his sense of gripping melody to excellent effect here, getting our attention right from the beginning with his patented ear-catching tunes, and each movement is a marvel of perfect proportions and exquisite balance.
He wrote literally hundreds of dances, brief miniatures that are often dismissed as mere trifles when compared to his sonatas and impromptus. But this is to sell them short, as this composer was never one to simply set music that had no capacity for growth and exploration. The dances are no different; this particular set was published, to Schubert’s dismay, as Landlers of the Viennese Ladies in 1826, a particularly egregious title given to the set by his publisher, Diabelli. They are delightful each and every one.
The D 946 Piano Pieces are not dissimilar to the two sets of Impromptus, and as such must be taken with due respect as mature and well-considered Schubert. Their length also testifies to the importance Schubert gave them, and their inventiveness ranks among the highest in all of the composer’s oeuvre. I must say that I am quite taken with pianist Hartmann’s way with the composer, and each interpretation ranks with the very best. But my qualms are with the sound, a little diffuse and distant, so much so that we sacrifice a great amount of clarity and detail for a more naturalistic and realistic place in the concert hall. My ears did adjust, but it took a while. Nevertheless, this is cautiously recommended for the fine interpretative qualities.
— Steven Ritter