Allegretto in C minor, D915
Piano Sonata in A, D664
Fantasy in C, D760 (Wanderer)
Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 27 June, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Elisabeth Leonskaja has enjoyed a close relationship with the music of Schubert, performing a cycle of the sonatas last year. This programme, a BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall, was an abridged version of a recital given by her at the Aldeburgh Festival a few days earlier.
She began with a beautifully paced performance of the Allegretto, effortlessly exploring the solemn C minor theme with its briefly brighter C major counterpart, then keeping the short trio section on its toes, gently lilting in triple time. Moving straight from this into the A major Sonata was a particularly inspired idea, the legato line pure and easy to follow in the right-hand, played as if it was a song with accompaniment. This was a performance marked by elegance, one of Schubert’s happiest works for piano. The slow movement was particularly affecting, Leonskaja’s beauty of tone and phrasing tied to a natural rubato. The finale was marked by impeccable figuration in the right-hand, flowing easily in the faster sections but taking occasional pauses for breath, emphasising some of the dance-rhythms in light staccato.
The ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy reveals a considerable debt to Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata in its figuration and use of key-signatures, Leonskaja keen to bring these out in a feisty opening section. Like the ‘Waldstein’ this contrasted with the calm of the second theme, pure in tone. Leonskaja was more aggressive than might have been anticipated, bringing a strong sense of gathering momentum to the second section, which began in unhurried, lyrical fashion, becoming ever more powerful as it progressed. If the fugal subject of the final section was initially gruff it quickly became full-bodied and secure, the counterpoint easy to follow and pointed towards the final chords, delivered with considerable aplomb.
Leonskaja’s enjoyment of Schubert was evident, but as an encore she gave the chromatic contours of Liszt’s Sonetto 104 del Petrarca, revealed through unhurried but effective attention to detail.