Longtime piano mavens encountering this Schubert release may be reminded of Ingrid Haebler’s bygone Philips recordings, in that Elena Margolina plays sensitively and lyrically, even when the music needs to be passionately forthright, or just plain virtuosic. She undermines the inherent bravura in the D. 784 A minor finale’s cascading figurations that positively scintillate in Stephen Hough’s fingers, although her strong left hand presence in the D. 664 A major first movement provides an enlivening foil to the wistful right hand melodies.
While Margolina tellingly gauges the D. 845 A minor first movement’s modifications of tempo and dramatic silences, she sometimes pulls back at the peak of a phrase, telegraphing the sudden dip in dynamics to come. Nor does her handling of the second-movement variations’ passages in triplets match Mitsuko Uchida’s dazzling control and suppleness. Margolina’s understated finale allows the busy counterpoint to breathe, albeit at the expense of rhythmic backbone, which cannot be said about Wilhelm Kempff’s temperamentally similar yet far firmer studio versions (Decca and DG). Or, better still, Kempff’s live 1962 Schwetzingen Festival performance (SWR Classic). As with her two earlier Ars Produktion Schubert discs, Margolina continues to offer genial readings that easily please without being particularly memorable.