SCHUBERT Piano Sonatas Nos 16 & 21
I’m not sure if these 2006 recordings have previously been released in the West but they provide my first exposure to Yury Martynov’s work on the modern concert grand, as opposed to his recent fortepiano Beethoven/Liszt symphony cycle. Few hints of the latter’s wild, affettuoso interpretation are present in these Schubert recordings, save for D845’s Andante sostenuto variations. Martynov’s basic pace is fast to the point of absurdity, where the rapid passagework is tantamount to a circus act. By contrast, Mitsuko Uchida’s comparably fleet fingerwork (Decca, 2/00) is equally breathtaking, yet she channels her virtuosity towards musical ends and a stronger unified whole. On the opposite end is Martynov’s slow and heavy Moderato, jam-packed with pretentious tenutos and emphatic accents, like a late Klemperer caricature. At the same time, the pianist’s rhetorical adjustments in the Scherzo underline the composer’s sudden minor-to‑major mode changes and syncopated accents, yet he sometimes lurches ahead in the Allegro ma non troppo finale’s perpetual motion patterns, rather than letting them take unpressured wing.
While one may carp over Martynov’s italicisations in the Molto moderato first movement of D960, they make dramatic sense, notably the foreboding ritards in the strange first ending, and the development section’s harmonic underpinnings. The Andante sostenuto gets an eloquent, expressively understated reading; perhaps not so internalised as Fleisher nor texturally so finely tuned as Perahia. Martynov’s Scherzo tempo is a tad conservative for a real Vivace, yet it allows for his delicate shadings to register, replete with caustic left-hand jabbing accents in the Trio. The finale builds well, with a coda that packs quite a cumulative punch. My only criticism here concerns Martynov’s pushing the minor-key dotted rhythms ahead, in contrast to Richter’s steadier, more powerful build. The engineering is fine, save for a metallic patina that emerges in loudest moments.