Composers: Schubert
Compositions: Piano sonatas
Performers: Francesco Piemontesi p
Catalogue Number: Pentatone PTC5186742 (2CD)

Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi’s recording of Schubert’s final three piano sonatas, D958, D959 and D960 (his debut on Pentatone) follows in the wake of Sir András Schiff’s magisterial recording of (two of) the same sonatas. While you certainly don’t envy him, the two are very different animals, with Sir András on fortepiano and Piemontesi on modern piano. But Piemontesi offers up subtle, well-articulated readings in all three sonatas, which were recorded last year in the Salle de musique in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, the D960 sonata live.

He brings a particularly exquisite, hushed beauty to the slow movements. The Andantino of Piano Sonata No 20, D959, positively aches, while the Andante of D960 has a haunting mystery to it that gives way to moments of soft sunshine – indeed Schubert’s final sonata is full of such contrasts: hear the way the thunder rumbles at a distance in the Molto Moderato, casting a pall over the sweeter melody of the opening.

Piemontesi sparkles brilliantly in the faster movements, without ever losing the smooth edge to his playing – his allegros have a sense of playful whimsy, even in the more muscular opening of the D959 sonata.

These are beautifully glimmering, dream-like accounts, and well worthwhile if you like your Schubert gentle – if you want something a little stronger, try Paul Lewis on Harmonia Mundi.

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