SCHUBERT Piano Sonatas Pires 4778107

. . . her performances are characteristically thoughtful . . . She is at her most persuasive in the central movements of D845 and the Scherzo of D960 . . .

Maria João Pires is a pianist who seems incapable of producing an ugly sound or fashioning a phrase that is not perfectly moulded. Her playing is wonderfully selfless, and Schubert, like Mozart, often brings out its best qualities . . . [D 960]: Pires allows Schubert's music to unfold so naturally that nothing seems forced or contrived.

The gentle, conversational way in which Maria João Pires launches the A minor Sonata D845 immediately identifies a pianist with a deep understanding of Schubert's music and its spectrum of expression. There is an impromptu-like innocence about Pires's playing of those opening bars, as if a whim of an idea has just lighted on her. But then, as Schubert develops his material and invests it with sinew, Pires takes her cue to give a beautifully proportioned account of the first movement -- lucid, poised and intuitively describing its emotional contours. The delicate, courtly gait of the theme of the Andante is deftly caught, the ensuing variations echoing Schubert's inventiveness in pianism that is opalescent and strongly defined. The cross-currents of pulse in the scherzo are unexaggerated but lightly pointed up in such a way that their teasing emphases are subtly telling. And the happy bustle at the start of the finale unleashes a rondo that in Pires's hands strikes a miraculous balance between refreshing spontaneity and a thoroughly thought-through interpretative plan. If this all adds up to a performance that can be listened to again and again, with its colours and nuances never losing their capacity to conjure up the very essence of Schubert, the same is true of the B flat Sonata D960. The grandeur of the opening is the stimulus for a performance that embraces Schubert's expansive dramatic trajectory and holds its elements of contemplation and outburst in shrewd equipoise. Pires's stillness and dignity in the slow movement are things of wonder; the scherzo and finale are magical studies of limpid finger work and refined tonal shadings. Truth to the music and Pires's personality come together on this disc to sublime effect.

She is bold and delicate, fiery and introspective, her ever-changing touch colours the notes in so many different, vivid shades. Yet the whole effort is always in the best of taste . . . I am seduced by Pires's powerful pianism, never too soft or too loud, always moving forward, yet sparkling with every contact between fingertip and piano key. Most importantly, these sonatas sing, which is always the essence of Schubert's beauty. This is Schubert made for the modern concert hall, yet still true to the salon. I think we can call that good taste.

. . . Pires does little to "prettify" Schubert: her approach allows Schubert's dissonances their full due, and her own tone does not seek for the luxurious . . . On the other hand, the tender outpouring to life's hammer blows can, under Pires, assume a truly liquid and poetic character, easily reminiscent of his song accompaniments and aspects of the Impromptus. The darker sections, perhaps touched by the spirit of Beethoven, acquire a symphonic character in the extended coda . . . The scale of the movement proves quite large, with Pires' once more applying the lion's paw to the contrasting textures, especially in the third and fourth variants . . . [Last Movement of D 845]: Pires imbues the rambunctious impulses considerable carriage and dignity, the pearly play as impressive as the left-hand undercurrents. The continual banter between fortissimo and pianissimo accounts for its genuinely excited character, which Pires realizes with devoted fervor . . . [D 960]: Nothing tentative in Pires' approach here, either: her virile but probing account has much to recommend it, not the least of which is her dramatic poise . . . With the final chords of the first movement and its slightly meliorated trill, we feel as though some part of life's battle has been, if not won, accepted . . . Some fine bass tones emerge from Pires' graduated palette, not to mention Schubert's lovely symmetries of motion. These are reverent readings of deep feeling and intelligent musicianship, certainly worthy of the Schubert collector¿s attention.

If the weightiness of her touch impresses, it is the delicacy and brilliance of her virtuosity, especially in the scherzos, that delight, and the finales have a dancing joie de vivre and wit -- notwithstanding Schubert's sudden changes of temper -- that take the breath away. Here is a Schubertian still at the peak of her pianistic powers with the maturity of an interpreter who has lived with this music for a lifetime . . . she makes you listen to Schubert's genius with fresh ears. She is particularly compelling in the great C major set of variations -- Andante, poco mosso -- that comprises the A minor sonata's slow movement. An enthralling disc.

From the first bars of Schubert's A minor sonata, D 845, Portuguese pianist Maria Joao Pires reminds us what a delicate, poetic and sensitive musician she is . . . These are deeply satisfying accounts, partly because she lets the music unfold in such a natural way, utterly secure of technique and interpretation. Pulse, line, articulation, balance, dynamics, phrasing -- all bring pleasure to the listener. She is one of those performers that, while she is playing, one thinks it could hardly be any other way. The first-rate recording doesn't hurt. And where the A minor tends to the reflective, the great B flat major sonata, Schubert's last, has passion as well as poetry and needs a bit more fire. Here, too, Pires provides a spacious, serene account, the magical modulations exactly proportioned. The scherzo dances joyously. Another great pianist, Alfred Brendel, wrote recently that "it seems almost miraculous that a composer who had not been a virtuoso player himself could display such an instinct for novel and forward-looking possibilities of piano sound and texture". That is exactly what Pires reveals.

. . . [D 960]: [an] exhaustive and highly individual reading . . . it's playing which any pianophile will want to hear.

. . . [D 960]: It's a very considered and mature interpretation that is both deeply pondered yet completely natural and artless at the same time. DG's piano sound is open, clear, and immediate. It's dynamic, yet not too percussive or forceful. Clarity is good, and the tone of the instrument sounds truthful and real.

Long pauses follow those rumbling bass trills in the opening movement of Schubert's last sonata, and pauses are a salient feature of Pires' exhaustive and highly individual reading . . . every detail has its own colouring and dynamic -- yet it's playing which any pianophile will want to hear (beautifully engineered too) . . . The A minor, D845, is similarly resolute and yet subtly nuanced.

. . . großes, ganz großes Klavierspiel . . . Seit Jahrzehnten gehört die mittlerweile 68-jährige Portugiesin Maria Pires zu den überragenden Schubert-Interpretinnen . . . geradlinig und schnörkellos, konzentriert und ganz nach innen gewandt, voller Anschlags-Nuancen und Klang-Schattierungen, und vor allem von einer Ruhe getragen, die den "Wanderer" Schubert auf allen harmonischen Irrungen und Wirrungen begleitet . . . In ihrer Neueinspielung der B-Dur-Sonate D 960 zeigt Pires eine noch größere Bandbreite der Dynamik . . . sie setzt einige überraschende Akzente . . . [D 845]: Auch hier ist es vor allem die wunderbar abgestufte Dynamik, die ihr Spiel prägt: Das Pianissimo, in dem drei der vier Sätze beginnen, klingt bei ihr wie fahler Nebel, wie eine Vorahnung von Tod und Vergänglichkeit, aus der die Fortissimo-Ausbrüche umso schroffer hervor klingen.

. . . eine ebenso ernsthafte wie gewichtige Lesart zweier Schubert-Sonaten . . . [Pires' Einspielung zeugt] von einer äußerst durchdachten, nuancenreichen Auseinandersetzung. Die Portugiesin spielt die große a-Moll-Sonate D 845 mit betonter Schlichtheit, fast mit einer Scheu, die diese "Première Grande Sonate" zu einem intimen Bekenntnis werden lässt. Pires verzichtet auf alles Gewollte, Manierierte, Pompöse. Kein grelles Scheinwerferlicht. Schubert im Kerzenschein, doch nie kitschig oder biedermeierlich inszeniert. Das Trio etwa klingt in dieser Weltvergessenheit fast schon mahlernd, das folgende Rondo hat etwas Befreiendes . . . Pires meidet extreme Tempi, setzt auf ein dosiertes Maß an Zurücknahme und Langsamkeit, auch in der B-Dur-Sonate D 960, deren erster tiefer Triller wie ein dezentes Brodeln aus der Ferne klingt. Pires versteht diesen Satz nicht als einen beispiellos expressiven Verlauf, sondern als eine behutsame Entwicklung, deren Katastrophe im Mittelteil nichts Überrumpelndes hat. Ihr Anschlag bleibt jederzeit klar, vor allem wenn sie liedhafte Melodiebildung und zerrissene Begleitung zu einer Einheit zusammenführt. Nicht schaufensternd, nicht virtuos -- Schubert bleibt für Pires ein Komponist der Nachdenklichkeit und der Privatsphäre.

. . . [Sonate D 845]: Pires ose un premier mouvement très retenu . . . sombre, insistant, élargissant les lignes et les respirations à celles d'un orchestre imaginaire, ponctué par une main gauche martelant des coups de boutoir à en suffoquer. La Sonate D 960 . . . n'est pas moins réussie. Pires chante le deuxième mouvement sans ombrer dans l'expressionnisme, mais elle le lie psychologiquement au premier, dans lequel elle chemine . . . de pianissimos lumineux en fortissimos à hurler de douleur, ponctuant de lumières fugitives . . . les plus évidents que je connaisse. Dans le finale, elle réussit la prouesse d'une lecture psychologiquement plus complexe que la fonction exutoire . . . Et si l'on sent Pires au bout de ses moyens pianistiques, Dieu! qu'elle en impose spirituellement et quelle humanité elle pousse devant elle!