Intimate Schubert brought to life

Two pianist bring Schubert's intimate piano duets and sonatas to the concert hall with marvellous results

Composer: Schubert
Artists: Maria João Pires, Ricardo Castro (piano)
Rating: 5/5 
Genre: Instrumental
Label: DG 477 5233

The piano duet is an intimate, personal format, best suited to lamp-lit living rooms – which is exactly why Schubert, so often the loneliest of composers, responded so exquisitely to the medium. Yet most of his masterpieces for the genre are hardly ever heard in a concert hall, which makes this beautiful collection all the more welcome.

Each pianist also performs a solo sonata – Pires gives a warm and touching account of the ‘little’ A major, D664, while Castro enters the darker, isolated world of the  A minor, D784, in a performance so empathetic with the work’s spirit that one wonders why we don’t hear more of this former Leeds Competition winner. The duets – the astonishing F minor Fantasie, the Rondo in A and the massive one-movement Allegro known as Lebensstürme (‘the storm of life’) – are unfailingly lyrical and compelling, the touch soft and gleaming, the phrasing sparing no detail; and the pair seem excellently matched. The booklet notes, exploring the title on the album cover – Résonance de l’Originaire, ‘the resonance of origins’ – chew through philosophical and psychoanalytical concepts about twinship, the completion of one soul by another, and so forth. Whether or not such ideas float your boat, this is a marvellous recording.<br></br>

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Schubert Impromptus  (Maria João Pires) DG 457 5502