Stunning Schubert piano duets

Two of Britain’s finest younger pianists work wonders with the marvels of Schubert’s inner landscape.

Composer: Schubert
Repertoire: Piano Duets
Artists: Paul Lewis, Steven Osborne (pf)
Rating:  5/5
Genre: Instrumental
Label: Hyperion CDA 67685

The Music: The piano duet drew from Schubert some of his most intimate and imaginative creations. The medium wonderfully suited his affection for music-making with friends and provided the chance for adventures in form. Several of these works are extended one-movement explorations, but the Fantasie in F minor is virtually a miniature cyclic symphony. 

The Performance: This music’s aesthetic is filled with qualities that seem increasingly alien to the 21st century – understated sorrows, reflectiveness, raw heartbreak, comradeship, subtle hints of fate and danger and a sort of longing for innocence – and all of it is here, the dramatic passages fleet and electric, the lyrical ones phrased with caressing tenderness. Here are two friends loving every moment of their joint effort. Schubert might have cheered. 

The Verdict: Gorgeous playing, highly idiomatic and empathetic. Probably the best I’ve heard of these pieces.  

Why you’ll love this 

Rare discoveries Some of these piano duet works are masterpieces, notably the F minor Fantasie and the A major Rondo – but when do we ever hear them? Duet recitals are rare beasts. If anyone can re-invogorate the genre, it’s Lewis and Osborne. 

Lost in the music 

Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne are both characterful pianists, but here they put themselves at the service of the music and each other, losing themselves in the beauty (besides the challenges) of Schubert’s writing. 

Collaborative excellence 

This CD makes the two pianists much more than the sum of their four hands. Beautifully recorded and presented, it’s a study in collaborative excellence, benefitting from the atmosphere of friendship and sympathy between the artists.