András Schiff plays Schubert

Brodmann fortepiano c. 1820
145:43 (2 CDs)
ECM Records 481 1572
Sonatas in G D894 & B flat D960, Moments musicaux D780, Impromptus D935, Ungarische Melodie D817, Allegretto in c D915

The two discs inside this simple cardboard box come in blank white card covers. It took my simple intelligence a while to fathom out which disc was which, before I realised that there was one small centimetre long stripe on one side of one cover, and two on the other! I did wonder what sort of over-zealous economy drive might have necessitated this. Another, more obvious means of distinguishing which disc was which and which way to open the cardboard (let alone what items were on each disc) might have got your reviewer off to a better start. There were few economies evident in the booklet, however, with its 40 pages in both German and English. Schiff gives an account of his “conversion” to HIP and an account (with a photo) of his instrument, a Viennese fortepiano by Franz Brodmann c. 1820. There are reproductions of facsimile pages, together with 14 pages of notes on the music by Mischa Donat. The only thing lacking (a minor point) was the total disc timings. Besides the two sonatas, the gentle G Major and Schubert’s last keyboard work, the great B flat sonata, the recording includes the six Moments Musicaux (op. 94) complete, but only the second set of four Impromptus (op. 142), together with two miscellaneous pieces, a Hungarian Melody (D. 780) and an Allegretto in C minor (D. 915). The gentle, mellow quality of the instrument is evident from the start, even in the fortissimo climaxes, and the use of the una corda and moderator pedals on the instrument is particularly effective. For those who appreciate the subtleties that the best of these historical instruments of the period can produce, this is a performance to be treasured.

Ian Graham-Jones