Schubert: Piano Sonatas/Alan Marks

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

A year before his untimely death from cancer at 46 in 1995, the American-born, Berlin-based pianist Alan Marks played a series of all-Schubert recitals in the Berlin Philharmonie’s Chamber Music Hall, including all 11 completed sonatas, plus the C major D. 840’s two completed opening movements. Their belated release substantially fleshes out Marks’ slender Nimbus discography.

A good deal of forethought and analysis seems to have gone into the pianist’s serious-minded performances. Slow movements generally elicit Marks’ most affectionate phrasing and communicative music making. For example, the D. 784 A minor sonata’s central movement receives a heartier, larger-scaled reading than what we usually encounter. Similarly, the D. 845 A minor’s second-movement variations unfold in broad, rhetorical paragraphs, far removed from the virtuosic tour-de-force resulting from Mitsuko Uchida’s determinedly constant tempo.

While the great D. 960 B-flat sonata’s long first movement stretches out to 23 minutes (repeat intact), Marks’ sensitively varied voicings and organic sense of rubato constantly hold your attention. On occasion the clipped quality of Marks’ detaché articulation sours the music’s inherent charm and lyricism–such as in D. 568’s finale, portions of the big A major sonata D. 959, and in D. 537’s middle movement. The D major D. 850 first movement and B major D. 575 finale are a shade square and lacking in thrust. I also wager that the flagging energy and flustered dotted notes in D. 960’s finale would have been resolved under studio conditions. Yet Marks’ flexible, unpretentious account of the A major D. 664 does this lovable piece complete justice. All in all, Schubert fans certainly will want to sample the best of what Alan Marks has to offer.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Kempff (DG)

FRANZ SCHUBERT - Piano Sonatas

  • Alan Marks (piano)

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