Piano Sonata in C minor, D958
Piano Sonata in A, D959
Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
Till Fellner (piano)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 5 June, 2006
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
To perform Schubert’s last three piano sonatas in one concert takes some courage, given their length – the recital didn’t end until 9.50pm – and makes huge emotional and intellectual demands on both performer and audience. I would like to be able to say that 34-year-old Till Fellner revealed himself to be a natural Schubertian – but I’m afraid that this is not the case.
In all the first movements there was a lack of flow and power, with marked slowing in the second subjects and a lack of shape to all the themes. In the developments there was no sense of drama or the ability to reveal Schubert’s miraculous key changes, while the recapitulations and codas just happened – no tonal shading or emotional variation.
The slow movements were too fast and loud, and it was very disappointing to hear the violent attack on tonality in the central section of D959 pass for little. Each scherzo was rhythmically flat, with the off-beat accents of D958 completely ignored; finger-work in D960 was lumpy and untidy. As in the first movements, the finales lacked power and variety and it was disappointing to hear the perpetuum mobile of D959 pass by with no sense of organic growth or sense of release and arrival in the coda.
Two technical issues caused many of Fellner’s interpretive problems. Firstly, he played whole passages at forte with little dynamic chanbe; secondly, there was virtually no bass, so the trills in the first movement of D960 were hardly audible – there was no sense of danger and threat. Certainly Fellner looked uncomfortable plodding his way through the works, and there was no sense of communication.