SCHUBERT 4 Impromptus. Moments Musicaux
There’s surprisingly little solo Schubert in Lars Vogt’s discography, so this Ondine disc is welcome. What it reveals, however, is a pianist whose considerable interpretative attributes now don’t seem fully attuned to the composer’s more straightforward – or apparently straightforward – utterances. Or at least that seems to be the case in the first three of the D899 Impromptus.
There’s no doubting the high quality of the pianism – and Ondine’s sound is beautifully resonant and realistic. Much of the playing is forthright and determined. There is some quiet playing of lovely stillness, too, such as in the wistful pianissimo major-key passages in the First Impromptu (at 3'42", for example), even if most drops in volume tend also to herald drops in tempo.
Otherwise I find Vogt’s penchant for stop-start pauses, within the context of some generally eccentric rubato, unsettling. He also makes some decisions with regard to voicing which I struggle to make sense of, with inner parts briefly highlighted before sinking back into the texture – at times we lose track of the top line in the G flat Third Impromptu completely. In a booklet interview the pianist offers a dark view on the biographical circumstances in which the works were composed, which might explain some of his decisions; on purely musical terms, though, much of it remains perplexing. Grigory Sokolov’s recent version of these pieces, by way of comparison, is perhaps more overtly idiosyncratic but nevertheless seems to make more sense on its own terms.
Matters improve a great deal in the Fourth Impromptu, though, where Vogt’s rippling, silvery touch is especially beguiling. He also seems a great deal more settled in the Moments musicaux, which receive a very fine performance. There’s more wonderful pianissimo playing in No 2, a pleasing, jaunty jerkiness to No 3’s rhythms and real excitement in No 5. Vogt is more convincing too, if rather po-faced, in his take on the Deutsche Tänze, where he is happy to let the notes do the talking in a way that he’s reluctant to in the Impromptus.