Friday, 6 March 2015

Vladimir Feltsman probes Schubert’s inner world more deeply than most in Volume One of his new cycle for Nimbus

Vladimir Feltsman has built a considerable catalogue of recordings for Nimbus in recent years. A quick look at the list of his recordings on the Nimbus website shows the breadth of his repertoire with A Tribute to Rachmaninoff  (NI6148), A Tribute to Scriabin (NI6198), A Tribute to Tchaikovsky (NI6162), Beethoven Diabelli Variations (NI6257), Beethoven Piano Sonatas (NI6120), Chopin Waltzes and Impromptus (NI6184), Liszt - Bénédiction de Dieu (NI6212), Bach - The English Suites (NI6176), Bach Six Partitas (NI6207), Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition & Tchaikovsky Album for the Young (NI6211), Haydn Keyboard Sonatas (NI6242), Schnittke Sonata No.1 and Schubert Sonata 'Reliquie' (NI6284), Chopin Ballades (NI6128) and Chopin Nocturnes (NI6126).

Now from Nimbus comes Volume 1 of Vladimir Feltsman’s Schubert series that includes the sonatas in A minor, D.537 and G major, D.894.

NI 6297

Vladimir Feltsman picks up wonderfully on the bold rhythmic qualities of the opening theme to the Allegro ma non troppo of Schubert’s earliest surviving complete sonata, his Sonata in A minor, D.537 (1817) which he subtly develops throughout with some very fine phrasing. He soon allows some darkness to intrude but moves swiftly between moments of depth and passages of confident rhythmic momentum with lovely phrasing and beautifully fluent, light textured playing.

Feltsman gives the Allegretto quasi andantino a nice lift in the offset little rhythm, soon followed by playing with a lovely natural flow. This pianist is so aware of the varying rhythmic facets of this movement, observing Schubert’s markings so well and bringing out so much of the strange beauty.  

The Allegro Vivace opens with some fine flourishes, Feltsman soon letting the music rush ahead before steadying to a more flowing tempo. Again Feltsman manages Schubert’s sudden changes of tempi and direction perfectly, allowing a freedom and spontaneity to Schubert’s creation.

This is a very fine performance to which, for all the assurance and experience, Feltsman brings an added sense of discovery.

The lovely little Adagio in E major, D.612 (1818) moves between gentle introspection and moments of sparkling playfulness in Feltsman’s hands. His touch is exquisite as is his fine phrasing, with more wonderfully spontaneous scales and flourishes.

With the B flat major Scherzo, Allegretto of Schubert’s 2 Scherzos, D.593 (1817), Feltsman’s fine rhythmic playing again reveals so much of the attractions of this little piece, making it an absolute delight. He brings a sense of fun to every bar and his well-judged little pauses add a terrific sense of anticipation. With its lightly flowing middle section he shows it to be a little gem.

Feltsman brings a lovely forward momentum to the second of these Scherzi, the D flat major, Allegro moderato. There is a sense of light hearted enjoyment not to mention a fine flowing central section.

The Sonata in G major, D.894 (1826) brings such a change, with Feltsman’s fine pacing and phrasing drawing out much tension and depth in the opening of the Molto moderato e cantabile. He subtly and slowly builds the drama and tension before finding a lighter mood with some most delicate, exquisite passages. This pianist also brings moments of great authority as he develops the drama, offset by passages of terrific spontaneity. There are some beautifully judged phrases and tempi and the way he offsets dramatic, darker passages with lighter passages is quite special. One becomes aware, for all Feltsman’s fine detail, of a strong structural understanding. What a journey this first movement proves to be, never rushed, impressively visualised.

The Andante follows perfectly with Feltsman allowing a slow, thoughtful flow of invention. Soon he lets go with a great outburst as the music develops in dynamics. Later there are so many fine moments before the music rises again with playing of great authority, leading to the gentle coda.

Feltsman brings a fine sense of rhythmic phrasing to the lighter Menuetto. Allegro moderato with some beautifully hushed delicate moments before suddenly coming alive with fine dynamic phrases.

Schubert’s playfulness is heard in Allegretto with Feltsman’s fine touch and fluidity bringing much to this movement, beautifully paced and realised, with exquisitely pointed rhythmic phrases before the music leads fluently to its lovely little coda.

Vladimir Feltsman probes Schubert’s inner world more deeply than most in this sonata.

This is an impressive start to Feltsman’s Schubert series which I look forward to hearing. The recording is first rate and there are excellent booklet notes from the pianist.

For more reviews of Vladimir Feltsman’s Nimbus recordings click below:

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