A must-have Schubert disc

Nebolsin’s grasp of structure, simplicity of approach and the song-like purity of the recorded sound make this very special

Composer: Schubert
Repertoire:  Piano Sonata No.4 in A minor; Piano Sonata No.13 in A; ‘Wanderer’, Fantasy in C
Artists: Eldar Nebolsin (pf)
Rating:  5/5
Genre: Instrumental
Label: NAXOS 8.572459

The Music: The A minor Sonata, one of the earliest in which Schubert experimented with sonata form, is followed by the life-affirming A major Sonata. The ground-breaking, technically-demanding ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy concludes the programme.

The Performance:  Listen to the first bars of the A major Sonata. Was there ever a more sublime opening to a work? This is an account to rank with the masterly (elderly) recording by Solomon, and that is saying something. The ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy is among the most compelling and coherent versions of recent years. Nebolsin’s unbridled virtuosity makes light of the mechanical difficulties to give us a truly inspired performance.

The Verdict: Nebolsin’s discs of Rachmaninov and Liszt have rightly won universal high praise. I hope this does the same.

Want More? Try the a forementioned Liszt disc–his two piano concertos and Totentanz (Naxos, 8.570517).

Why You’ll Love This

■ Ease and Transparency
It’s so easy to over-sentimentalise Schubert and play with lashings of rubato. In the A major Sonata Nebolsin finds the perfect balance between tender introspection and narrative drive, letting the emotion of the music speak for itself.

■ The Piano Sings
Schubert the song writer is never far away in his piano works. Nebolsin almost persuades you that two people are singing a duet in, for example, the last movement of the A minor Sonata. Likewise, in the difficult finale of the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy his lucid voicing is exemplary.

■ Dulcet Tones
Nebolsin’s piano has been beautifully captured by the engineers in an acoustic which is neither empty concert hall nor impersonal, stifling studio.