Those who admire the Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman as I do will be excited by this new release, his first solo album in years. The hallmarks of his playing are here: a chiseled clarity of texture (nothing vague or mushy), subtle expression that always remains in scale and, above all, freshness.

These magnificent sonatas were Schubert’s last, both published posthumously, but they are full of joy (particularly No 20, in the open-hearted key of A Major). The fact that they represent Schubert’s final thoughts on the sonata is no reason to layer them with nostalgia. I find in some German pianists a tendency to sink into reverence at every opportunity, making Schubert sound mawkish and old-fashioned. Zimerman is entirely different: in the A Major’s second movement, he separates the notes of the accompaniment (his use of the sustaining...

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