BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No 8 SCHUBERT Piano Sonata No 21
Sarah Beth Briggs’s Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert recital tells us of a double commitment. First, in depth and consideration she holds her own with many of the illustrious names on disc (and never more so than in the last pages of the Andante sostenuto of Schubert’s B flat Sonata). Second, her recital is a tribute to Denis Matthews, a great artist and inspired teacher who guided her through her early years. For her, his way with Schubert’s slow movement moved her to tears and she has clearly taken on the mantle of his musical stature.
Throughout, Briggs’s performances are as natural as they are concentrated. In Mozart’s C minor Fantasia (she has already recorded its companion Sonata) she lends a special freshness and vitality to every teeming drama. And again, in Beethoven there is none of that easy over-familiarity often associated with pianists of greater international fame. Here is all of ‘Beethoven’s C minor of life’ (EM Forster). Her Schubert is as personal (in the development of the first movement, given here with the repeat, she allows herself considerable freedom of pulse and romantic leeway) as it is disciplined. Her Scherzo is a rapid and lissom reply to the Andante’s profound elegy, admirably contrasted in the gnomic Trio. In the finale, she is memorably appreciative of its stop-go whimsicality, lyrical, ever-expanding lines and sudden explosions of drama, and ends with a thrillingly exultant close. Finely recorded, this is a notable tribute to three cornerstones of the classical Viennese repertoire.