Stefan Vladar’s Reserved Schubert

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

For the record, Stefan Vladar manages to get Schubert’s last two piano sonatas on one CD with both first-movement exposition repeats intact. In D. 959’s first movement, Vladar forthrightly maneuvers his way through the gnarly development section, doling out ritardandos with care and proportion in the manner of an experienced driver gradually applying brakes to anticipate dangerous curves. He achieves impressive textural distinction between the slow movement’s right-hand melody and left-hand accompaniment, while the volcano of notes erupting in the cataclysmic central section manages to be both impassioned and controlled. Vladar’s matter-of-fact Scherzo yields to  Richard Goode’s varied characterizations and sly humor. Similarly, Pollini’s additional flexibility and tonal warmth enliven the finale’s lyrical trajectory to more uplifting and vocally oriented effect than in Vladar’s relatively reserved hands.

It’s difficult to find fault with Vladar’s judicious tempos and well-groomed pianism throughout the posthumous B-flat sonata, yet again, other recordings dig a little deeper. Take the finale, for example, and how ordinary Vladar’s emphasis of the unison G-naturals sounds when compared to the stern accentuation of Fleisher, Schnabel, or even the controversial Horowitz. Also compare Vladar’s stiff dispatch of the right hand’s climactic dotted rhythms against the left-hand triplets with the lighter, more pliable interplay served up by both Andsnes and Kovacevich. In a less competitive marketplace Vladar’s stylish, serious-minded Schubert would be easier to recommend without qualification.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: D. 959: Pollini (DG); D. 960: Fleisher (Vanguard); Kovacevich (EMI)

  • SCHUBERT, FRANZ:
    Piano Sonata in A major D. 959; Piano Sonata in B-flat major D. 960

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