SCHUBERT Piano Sonatas / Barenboim 4792783

. . . a near definitive set of Schubert's sonatas . . . With this collection, Barenboim asserts his position among the greatest pianists of our time, bringing out every nuance and emotion with his immaculate technique and virtuosity.

. . . highly charged grandeur contrasted with expansive lyricism.

Barenboim aims for clarity, showing Schubert's development as a composer with the sonatas part of the intimate 'musical diary' which includes the songs and other chamber music . . . There's plenty of good music to be discovered in the six or so sonatas left out of this [substantial collection] . . . [the] great musician's thoughtfulness and sensitivity are always present in his playing. He doesn't overwork these sonatas, allowing Schubert to speak, sing and indeed cry out to us in a sometimes disarmingly direct fashion . . . Barenboim is clear and direct, but he is by no means superficial . . . Without going through each sonata and providing blow by blow accounts of how sublimely satisfying everything is I would hope readers can extrapolate that the highlighted qualities of the few also represent the many. I very much enjoy Barenboim's contrast in, for instance, the opening Moderato of D. 845, in which melting beauty dances cheek by jowl with a sense of fun in the Viennese salons. Then there's the absolute sense of poise and delicate shading of colour in the Molto moderato e cantabile of D. 894. With the superb depth of the recording quality in this set nothing Barenboim places before us is wasted. His highly sustained level of communication is a joy to behold and to hear unfold . . . what Barenboim brings to the Schubert stable is very worthwhile indeed . . .

. . . Barenboim treats us to such a wealth of musicality in this five-CD release. Barenboim brilliantly conveys a profound musical understanding of Schubert's sonatas . . . Barenboim offers us straightforward, unfussy piano playing . . . Barenboim perfectly sustains the natural flowing line through all the movements of the sonatas -- the three A minor sonatas (D537, D784 and D845) are excellent examples of this. The fine A major sonatas (D664 and D959) never drag and the tense G major sonata (D894) has probably never received such gravitas as it does here. Barenboim reigns supreme in the late Beethoven sonatas, so there's an obvious parallel between his mastery of those architectural complex works with his performance of Schubert's final sonata, B flat major D960, in which his forward-moving pulse secures a logic harmonic progression over which the melody, rich in sonorous tone, can smoothly sing. The recordings are natural-sounding and the Steinway is in superb condition. There is a reason why Barenboim looks so contented on the front cover. He has every right to be so!

. . . Barenboim's magisterial trajectory encompasses the youthful elation and romantic melancholy of the early and intermediate works, but it is in the great final triptych . . . that a lifetime of pondering these transcendent masterpieces reaps most dividends.

. . . it's a tribute to his immense musical intelligence that he can grasp a whole oeuvre in this way and make it his own. The first word that comes to mind, after extensive listening, is 'unflinching'. These performances [are fiercely honest] . . . Barenboim is highly reactive, so there's a tendency for phrases that with some artists form large-scale arcs to become bittier -- more Beethovenian in some respects. But he can be gripping and revelatory, as in the way he varies the rondo theme in the finale of the last A major Sonata. This is, on the whole profoundly serious Schubert.

. . . an important first-time release. For admirers of Barenboim's intellectual depth and clean playing, his approach to these works may be ideal, because Schubert's music is always vulnerable to overly ripe or sloppy interpretations, and it takes a balance of ideas and emotions to convey the essence of the sonatas. While Barenboim has established himself as a masterful accompanist in Schubert, playing chamber works and lieder cycles, he has touched the solo keyboard works less often. However, these performances of the sonatas are as cogent and competent as if he had specialized in them for decades. Touch is critical in Schubert, and Barenboim's refined playing shows a remarkable control of dynamics, colors, and shadings, which, together with his eloquent phrasing and careful use of the pedals, make it subtle and compelling for its variety . . . the piano has a slightly ringing quality in the upper register and a warm middle to low range, so it has an attractive tone without studio enhancements. Highly recommended.

. . . it's every bit as detailed, nuanced and entertaining as you would imagine from the hands of a modern master.

The D major Sonata, D 850, can often seem too explosive, but Barenboim gives as convincing an account of it as I've heard. He is even finer in the Sonata in G major, the most lyrical of them all . . . Barenboim, bringing out its closeness to the first movement of Beethoven's Fourth Concerto, is straightforward and plays with gorgeous tone. In the last three sonatas, one of music's greatest peaks, he gives compelling accounts of the C minor and A major works . . . and exaggerated slowings up in the B flat Sonata, music to be lived with for a lifetime. There is noble music-making here . . . from this great artist.

. . . his performances are enjoyable, the more so if you want to hear Schubert played with the solid authority that Barenboim brings to Beethoven's sonatas . . . Happily, these ambitious, large-scale works suit Barenboim's style, which constantly refers to Beethoven. His deeper instincts for phrasing and expression are often in evidence . . . [and overall] his approach is assured and direct, without fussiness or prettiness . . . [the] standout performance for me is Barenboim's poised and balanced reading of the A-Major Sonata D 959 . . . Good piano and recorded sound; short booklet notes speak in general but helpful terms.

. . . [the late Sonatas]: these ambitious, large-scale works suit Barenboim's style, which constantly refers to Beethoven. His deeper instincts for phrasing and expression are often in evidence . . . his approach is assured and direct, without fussiness or prettiness . . . Good piano and recorded sound . . .

. . . he is the greatest all-round musician in the world. I've been listening to his new Schubert sonatas on DG. To pick just one example, the tarantella finale of D958 is unusually slow, and the texture burnished rather than crisp, but Barenboim uses his celebrated palette of tonal colour to clarify the structure of the movement. There's drama, too: when pianissimo triplets creep up the keyboard, it's as if the great opera conductor has ushered a character on to the stage.

. . . [Schuberts Sonatenwelt] sei Musik voller Kontraste, der es gelinge, gegensätzliche Gefühle in eine Harmonie zu bringen: Freude und Melancholie zugleich. Und genau dieses Spannungsfeld lotet Barenboim differenziert und detailfreudig aus. Er setzt mit überraschend leisen Momenten Zäsuren, ebenso wie mit einer regelrecht kühn zupackenden Pranke. Und auch das Banale, das Schuberts Musik manchmal hat, wenn er sich vom Volksliedhaften inspirieren lässt und sich dem schwingenden Takt eines Ländlers hingibt, klingt bei Barenboim keineswegs plump, sondern hat immer auch etwas Subtiles . . . Herausragend sind vor allem die langsamen Sätze, schlicht, beinahe zerbrechlich schön, auch im Leisesten vielschichtig ausbalanciert -- man erkennt den Dirgenten, der alle Details im Blick hat. Und es gelingt Barenboim, dass sein moderner Flügel fast wie ein Hammerklavier klingt. In einem Zeitraum von gerade einmal 13 Jahren hat Schubert seine Sonaten komponiert. Barenboim hat sie auf fünf CDs vereint und einen facettenreichen Bogen geschaffen, kontrastreich dank einer Klangpalette, die nicht viele zur Verfügung haben.

Nachdenklich tastend, offen in der Form und zuweilen beinahe grüblerisch intim ist folglich der Gestus dieser durchaus originellen und sehr eigenständigen, entschlossen klingenden Aufnahmen . . . Barenboim beweist, dass mit ihm auch als Pianist auf höchstem Niveau immer noch zu rechnen ist.

. . . der Flügel singt und knurrt und bollert und tiriliert, wie es gerade erforderlich ist . . . Man merkt schnell, dass Barenboim am Klavier nach wie vor zu jeder bezaubernden Nuance fähig ist. Wenn er im Diskant Töne ausschwingen lässt, wenn er Phrasen im Bass abrundet, wenn er Triolen gekonnt die Assistentenrolle zubilligt oder wenn er -- wie in D 845 -- herrliche Dialoge aufführt. Das ist souverän, großartig . . . Viele Details lassen den Hörer staunen ob der Klangkultur, zu der Barenboim fähig ist . . .

Barenboim est à son meilleur lorsqu'il faut énoncer des phrases arrondies et lustrées. A cela s'ajoute une sorte de théâtralité intuitive, qui s'illustre par un léger rubato (inattendu dans le Scherzo de la D 960), une délicate accentuation des dissonances, un discret décalage des mains (premier mouvement de la D 664) ou par la prédominance accordée fugitivement à une voix intermédiaire. Voilà un Schubert qui tient autant de l'atelier artisanal que de la salle de spectacle. . . . [dans] l'immense premier mouvement de la D 960 . . . les phrasés y sont magnifiques et habités . . . les pages les plus captivantes demeurent celles où la douceur du piano de Barenboim, sa rondeur, ses infinies nuances entre le piano et le mezzo forte, recouvrent les mélodies schubertiennes d'une sorte de sérénité chaleureuse -- dans le délicieux rondo final de la D 850, par exemple.