Schubert Sonatas Stun

Pianist Paul Lewis moves his focus away from Beethoven to Schubert with stunning results.

Composer: Schubert
Repertoire: D.840; 850 & 894, Impromptus D.899, Klavierstücke D.946
Artist: Paul Lewis (pf)
Rating: 4/5

Genre: Instrumental

Label: Harmonia Mundi HMC902115.16

The Music: After his acclaimed Beethoven odyssey of the past few years, Lewis returns to the other love of his life - a composer who himself adored Beethoven - in a programme of late works mixing sonatas with collections of shorter pieces.

The Performance: The dominating mood is joyous and upbeat, perhaps reflected on the CD cover with the first known photograph of the pianist grinning. Disc one has two four-movement sonatas (nos. 17 and 18), played with Lewis’s trademark cool precision, instinctive tonal colouring and relaxed tempos. The consistently warm sound he produces (try the impromptus nos.2 and 3 on disc two) compensates for the empty studio acoustic. After the two monumental movements of the uncompleted ‘Reliquie’ Sonata come the rarely heard Klavierstücke, these alone are well worth the price of the two discs.

The Verdict: Lewis can sometimes sound unspontaneous, just as elements of wit and charm can elude him (as in the finale
of sonata no.17), but his absorption in the music and ability to convey the sheer beauty of Schubert’s conceptions are special qualities of this fine pianist.

Want More? Schubert’s sonatas nos. 14 and 19 are on the same label (HMA 195 1755) played by Lewis, as are his two great final sonatas (HMC 901 800). Highly recommended.