Schubert
Piano Sonata in C-minor, D958
Moments musicaux, D780
Schubert, trans. Liszt
Sei mir gegrüßt, D742; Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D774
Barry Douglas (piano)

Recorded 23 & 24 May 2017 in Curtis Auditorium, CIT Cork School of Music, Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10990
Duration: 74 minutes
Reviewed: June 2018

There's nothing to say about this release. Conversely everything. Barry Douglas is one of history's grand Schubertians, his artistry and sensitivity yielding fabled glories at every turn. His C-minor Sonata is a gripping symphonic canvas, its roads, valleys and peaks wandered and dreamt to perfection, every lyrical contrast gloriously poeticised, every tempo tensionally scaled, each movement gap judged to a nicety. The A-flat Adagio breathes at a thespian level, the black tarantella Finale races with all the muscular grace and power of an Aintree steeplechaser. Regally magnificent.

The six Moments musicaux – what a private, prophetic collection of pieces, capsules of landscape, reflection and spirit, ruminations of the hour – are a tender, sonorous realisation of the page, here quietly literal, there gaspingly suggestive. Beauty of shape, beauty of mind, personified. Douglas's impeccably voiced and responsive 1997 Steinway, outstandingly produced and engineered by Jonathan Cooper, is especially sympathetic to Schubert's flat keys and flat harmonies, each leaving a lingering afterglow of wood-smoke and overtones.

Such a sound envelope ideally suits the B-flat/A-flat environment of the two Liszt transcriptions. Wisely, these are unhurried – line, dynamics, climax and depth, clarity of articulation, commanding the stage. Some singers, like pianists, take these songs faster than Douglas, others are slower. No matter. His conception, cantabile and (rarefied) pedalling, his ability to distinguish Liszt's illusions of voice and accompaniment, his concern for Schubert's harmonic rhythms to speak naturally, takes us to the Elysian Fields.

 

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