SCHUBERT Piano Sonata. Six Moments Musicaux
Barry Douglas continues his Schubert traversal with the most overtly Beethovenian of Schubert sonatas, the C minor, D958, whose muscular opening is given with relish. However, doubts creep in not long after, as he slows down for the consoling E flat major theme (1'03"), though it’s not marked as such in the score; how much more effective is Paul Lewis here, as he maintains the same pulse. The other aspect that distracts me is the recording itself, which is relatively resonant – an issue I’ve found with previous volumes.
However, that aside, what Douglas does offer is a sure sense of pacing that means we’re never in danger of losing our way in these vast landscapes. He captures the song-like simplicity of the second movement’s main theme effectively, though the desynchronisation of the hands (such as at 1'30", where the music turns to the minor) is something of an acquired taste. Compared to Lewis, Douglas sounds a touch ponderous here. Or, for the ultimate in seraphic beauty Lupu is supreme, at a daringly slow tempo that would be deadly in the hands of a lesser artist. I find Douglas’s way with the third-movement Minuet pretty earthy compared to the likes of Uchida and Andsnes but his finale has a good sense of purpose and the ending is suitably dramatic.
Douglas is essentially a pianist of big gestures, making him well suited to the drama of the fifth of the Moments musicaux, which he imbues with an exhilarating energy. Elsewhere, though, I wanted more delicacy of coloration, something Maria João Pires provides in abundance in her 1989 recording, whether in the constantly shifting moods of No 1 or the quiet nervosity of No 3. And then there’s Lupu, whose voicing in the chordal outer sections of No 2 is a veritable masterclass in subtlety.