Just one new CD this month – but it’s a good one! Irish pianist Barry Douglas has started on a new survey of piano music by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), and Volume 1 starts with two major works, the B flat major Piano Sonata, D960 and the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy, D760. These two greats of the repertoire sit either side of two transcriptions by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) of songs by Schubert, Du bist die Ruh, and Ungeduld from Die schöne Müllerin. First the Sonata – Douglas includes the lengthy repeat in the first movement of the Sonata, which although long is actually really important for the architecture of this piece, but is sadly often jettisoned for reasons of length. At just over nineteen minutes, the first movement lasts for longer than the other three movements put together, and sometimes the remaining movements can feel like an anticlimax. However, I really enjoy Douglas’ approach here – Schubert can sometimes be performed with too much reverence, when in fact it needs real depth and contrast, from almost aggression at times in the first movement, to painful tragedy (but not sentimentality) in the slow movement, and litheness and energy in the final movement. His approach to the Wanderer Fantasy is similar, although perhaps the contrasts are not quite as marked here. But the slow second section has real delicacy here, and the Allegro final section is a real joy, finishing off the disc in style. The Liszt transcriptions were new to me, and were a real pleasure too. Du bist die Ruh is such a beautiful and well known Schubert song, and Liszt treats it with loving care, making sure the wonderful melody is still central, and his transcription of Ungeduld is equally faithful, yet adding perhaps a pianistic sense of urgency too. A great start here to what will surely be a wonderful collection.
Schubert, F. 2014. Schubert: Works for Solo Piano, Volume 1. Barry Douglas. Compact Disc. Chandos CHAN 10807.
(This review first appeared in GScene, October 2014)