Schubert Piano works/Lifschitz/Palexa C

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 8

On paper Schubert’s two books of Impromptus, six Moments Musicaux, and Three D. 946 Klavierstück might seem too much of a good thing programed on a single recital, as Konstantin Lifschitz did on July 12, 2000. Palexa’s live recording of that occasion, however, proved me wrong as I sat for two hours, transfixed in front of my stereo system, thoroughly soaking in Schubert’s music and Lifschitz’s riveting, at times revelatory artistry. Indeed, this is the finest recording I’ve yet heard from this pianist. He approaches the Impromptus with little if any modifications from his basic, initial tempos, and he underscores the music’s boundless felicities through color, articulation, voice leading, plus hand and finger balance. By playing the final F minor Impromptu (the fourth of D. 935) absolutely straight, Lifschitz clarifies twists and turns in the melodic line other pianists usually blur. In the B-flat major Theme and Variations Impromptu, each section flows from the previous one to effortless, improvisatory effect.

It’s also a joy to hear the hackneyed G-flat Impromptu beautifully shaped at a true alla breve rather than at a lumbering four beats to the bar. I also like Lifschitz’s brisk treatment of the D. 935 A-flat Impromptu, where he voices the hymn-like chordal writing in the outer sections as if his fingers were members of a sensitive string quartet. The Moments Musicaux prove equally gripping. You might prefer a lighter touch and more animation in the Third and Fourth selections, but No. 5’s dotted rhythms have a ferocious, forward sweep that literally took my breath away. Stripped of its latter-day monumental accoutrements and slow-motion shoes, No. 6 is restored to its lyrical, songful state. Lifschitz’s controlled drama and long-lined breadth will surely hold your attention in the lengthy first two Klavierstücke, while No. 3’s lively cross-rhythmic effects simply sparkle under the pianist’s exceptional fingers.

Lifschitz offers an unusual encore in the form of the 16th movement from Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus. He juggles the music’s polytextural webs with pinpoint precision and a wide array of colors at his beck and call. Certainly this brilliant performance bodes well for a complete Vingt Regards from Lifschitz. Maybe there’ll be one, if this Schubert recital sells. Buy it while you can. [Editor’s Note: You can purchase this CD online at]

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Schubert impromptus, Lupu (Decca), Messiaen, Loriod (Erato)

FRANZ SCHUBERT - Impromptus D. 899 & D. 935; Moments Musicaux D. 780; Three Klavierstücke D. 946
OLIVIER MESSIAEN - Regard des Prophètes, des Bergers et des Mages

  • Konstantin Lifschitz (piano)

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