Jörg Demus’ Schubert

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

This first CD reissue of Jörg Demus’ 1958 Schubert Impromptus, Moments musicaux, and Klavierstücke reminded me that I once owned these long-out-of-print Deutsche Grammophon recordings on scratchy old American Decca LPs. They sound infinitely better minus skips and surface crackle! However, the interpretations have their ups and downs.

In the D. 899 C minor Impromptu, Demus is less concerned with drama and urgency than textural clarity, resulting in a forthright and honest yet rather dry reading. At first the E-flat Impromptu’s central minor-key episode sounds reined in, yet that’s because Demus works overtime articulating the triplet figurations. I have no reservations about Demus’ limpid and eloquently phrased G-flat Impromptu, nor concerning the organically expanding and contracting rubato in No. 4’s middle section. If you look past Demus’ clipped demeanor in the first F minor D. 935 Impromptu, you’ll appreciate his stinging accents and marked dynamic contrasts. Demus spins both intimate and impetuous gold throughout the B-flat Theme and Variations, in contrast to his prosaic, clunky A-flat and ultra-careful way with the final F minor piece.

It takes a few minutes for Demus to relax into the first Moment Musical, but his liltingly animated No. 2 inspires. Demus’ rigid grace notes prevent No. 3 from taking wing, to say nothing of his boring, square-toed No. 4. Yet Demus wakes up for a vehement and sometimes aggressive No. 5. The sixth piece begins fluidly and simply, yet Demus grows increasingly heavy and emphatically ugly as the music unfolds.

Some listeners may find the pianist’s rhetorical distentions in the first Klavierstücke’s main section mannered, but they hold my attention, as does the colorful and wonderfully characterized second piece. Demus’ meticulous detailing of No. 3 justifies his intimate, low-key approach, yet I prefer pianists who dig into the cross-rhythmic phrases with more abandon and gusto. Peter Quantrill’s excellent booklet notes merit a special shout-out. Perhaps Eloquence can explore the best of Demus’ 1950s Westminster solo Schumann, Fauré, and Bach recordings for possible reissue?



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Impromptus: Lupu (Decca), Klavierstücke: Pires (DG), Moments musicaux: Curzon (Decca)

  • SCHUBERT, FRANZ:
    Impromptus D. 899 & D. 935; Klavierstücke D. 946; Moments musicaux D. 780
  • Jörg Demus (piano)

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