BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No 16. Eroica Variations SCHUBERT Wanderer Fantasy
Described as ‘a rising star’, the 19-year-old Austrian pianist Aaron Pilsan has surely already risen, and it is greatly to his credit that he uses his remarkable agility to a purely musical end in Schubert’s Wandererfantasie. Others (Katchen, Graffman, etc) may be more trenchant and rhythmically taut but Pilsan’s way of telling us that the Fantasy is a lyrical as well as a virtuoso masterpiece is refreshing and rewarding. He sinks gratefully into the Adagio’s introspection and takes a subdued rather than barnstorming view of the concluding Allegro fugue. At the same time, there is no lack of virtuosity in the final race to the finish, where Schubert piles one outsize demand on top of another. But, again, excitement is tempered with musical discretion, making the Wanderer less exceptional and more closely related to the great Schubert sonatas.
Pilsan is graceful and fluent in the 16 German Dances, while in Beethoven’s Op 31 No 1 Sonata he relishes the composer’s off-the-cuff wit and quasi-operatic humour. His crystalline trills in the central Adagio grazioso float magically across the tick-tock accompaniment, and the several flourishes and cadenzas are given with a special imaginative leeway and freedom. Again, and to an even greater extent, the Eroica Variations’ clear-sighted virtuosity is tailor-made for a pianist of such assurance, particularly when crowned with a no less fine sense of lyrical intensity. Pilsan is well recorded and his already distinctive personality and command make one eagerly look ahead to future releases.