Gratifying Schubert From The Koroliov/Hadžigeorgieva Duo

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Although this 2006 Schubert four-hand program might be difficult to source as a physical CD, it is now easily obtainable via digital download. I have rarely heard such grand, grounded, and deeply considered performances of these two major Schubert masterpieces.

Too many younger duos impose tricky phrasings and fancy rubatos throughout the F minor Fantasia, whereas Evgeni Koroliov and Ljupka Hadžigeorgieva allow the opening section to seemingly play itself, with the climaxes and soft moments carefully scaled and the embellishments perfectly placed. The Largo conveys a rare buoyancy by virtue of the duo’s seamlessly matched trills and triplet chords. They take time over the Scherzo and slightly relax the pace in the Trio section; as a result, the imitative writing gains a lovely conversational lilt. Likewise, the players keep the fugal finale’s foreground and background material in clear perspective, so that the music sounds weighty yet never cluttered or clangorous. You don’t get the Perahia/Lupu edition’s moments of otherworldly intimacy and harmonic pointing, yet Koroliov/Hadžigeorgieva are no less distinctive.

Comparable textural organization and deftly effected transitions characterize this duo’s remarkable synchronicity in the Grand Duo’s first movement, both technically and musically. They appropriately feel the long second-movement Andante in two long beats to the bar, and, more importantly, let the music sing. The Scherzo often comes off as clunky when pianists fall into the trap of accenting most downbeats. Here, however, the triplet patterns fall into long lines that effortlessly move over the barlines. It’s easy to turn the note-packed Finale into a bloated Hungarian Dance that just won’t end. Yet through intelligent balances, subtle animation, and variety of articulation, the Koroliov/Hadžigeorgieva duo brilliantly reveals the movement’s symphonic scope and truly “grand” aspirations.

My home sound system loves Tacet’s resplendent engineering, by the way! No Schubert lover nor piano duo maven should miss this most gratifying release.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one, D. 812: Piano Duo Schnabel (Town Hall), D. 940: Murray Perahia & Radu Lupu (Sony)

  • Evgeni Koroliov and Ljupka Hadžigeorgieva (piano duet)

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