Schubert Piano Music – Elisabeth Leonskaja (MDG)

0 of 5 stars

Three Piano Pieces, D946
Sonata in A, D664
Two Scherzos, D593
Allegretto in C minor, D915
Adagio in E, D612

Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano)

Recorded in February 2003, Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: December 2003

This is consummate playing in its varied touch and poetic phrasing. Elisabeth Leonskaja’s flexible approach harks back to a previous era when musicians were usually less constrained by the text, preferring to communicate the spirit rather than the letter.

Leonskaja’s playing isn’t wilful or deviant though. It’s malleable, lived with, and sensitively communicative, fluctuating where necessary to underline a particular emotion. She prefers the softer side of piano playing: dynamics are only full when really necessary. She emphasises the singing side of Schubert’s music, that it is intimate and that the composer has put himself in his music, a subjective aspect that doesn’t need underlining.

The sound of Leonskaja’s piano, a Steinway, is both warm and bare; she is not one for over-pedalling, preferring tones that are finger-sensitive and a bass that has a bit of a growl to it. MDG’s recording is typically excellent in its faithfulness.

With a full clutch of repeats, the Impromptu-like Pieces of D946 are unforced and lovingly sculptured. I’m not sure about the rather melodramatic trills in the first one (in search of a silent film!) but it’s an interesting view. Otherwise, one succumbs to Leonskaja’s very persuasive unfolding of this searching music. The lovely sonata is similarly given time to express itself – in curves rather than straight lines. The finale is playful – this is one of Schubert’s most delightful (and angst-free) creations.

The two Scherzos enjoy Leonskaja’s poise, inflection and, as throughout the disc, her unforced vitality and shapeliness – the barrel organ B flat is unashamedly corny, while the D flat is Schubert in gentle-rippling mode. The regretful Allegretto and the lyrical Adagio are heartfelt in Leonskaja’s unaffected but eloquent renditions.

In short, this is a very distinguished release.

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