Allegro in A minor, D947 (Lebensstürme)
Divertissement sur des motifs originaux français, D823 – II: Andantino varié in B minor
Fugue in E minor, D952
Rondo in A, D951
Variations on an original theme in A flat, D813
Fantasie in F minor, D940
Paul Lewis & Steven Osborne (piano/four hands)
Recorded 12-14 February 2010 in Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, UK
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2010
CD No: HYPERION CDA67665
Duration: 76 minutes
With ‘Lebensstürme’, Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne make an arresting beginning to this exemplary Hyperion disc of some of Schubert’s piano duets, vividly communicating its bravura, soul and affecting modulations; ‘storms of life’ indeed and played here for all it is worth, which is a considerable amount. The lucidity of Andantino varié – the second movement of a larger Divertissement – is beautifully brought out, Schubert’s lissom writing for duet particularly beguiling, and here appreciated with a smile by Lewis and Osborne. The slow Fugue in E minor seems to look back to Bach, certainly it has the pallor of religiosity about it, and is a consummate piece of academicism.
After this the Rondo in A is pure Schubert, urbane and from the tavern, music of enviable charm. Further delight as well as blissful variety is in evidence in the original-theme Variations. Finally the great Fantasie in F minor, with it miraculous opening idea, and the momentous journey that it initiates, is given a fathomable performance that nevertheless retains one of the beauties of great music, an enigma as to why this should be such a remarkable piece and what it all means; here its episodes are contrasted yet remain indivisibly threaded.
This superb release is beautifully recorded (with intimacy and also a notable dynamic range) and is finely annotated. It documents two outstanding pianists who seem to have formed a friendly and productive relationship – this is easily sensed by the sheer enjoyment evident in their playing, as spontaneous as if these musicians had been enjoying themselves in one or other’s study.
This is a notable release, one exuding warmth and pleasure, the music and its performance inextricably linked, and suggesting Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne as a ‘golden duo’, save that such a title would undermine their musicianship. It can only be that Hyperion has already earmarked the rest of Schubert’s four-handed music for these exceptional pianists, not least the symphony-like Grand Duo. Mozart’s Sonata (K448, for two pianos) would be a treat, too.