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Alfred Brendel Plays and Introduces Schubert: Volume Four,” features a
good mix, including the “Piano Sonata D958 in C Minor,” the “Moments
Musicaux D780, Op. 94” and the “Drei Klavierstücke (Three Piano Pieces)
D946.”

Prior to performing the “Sonata D958,” Brendel provided a lengthy
introduction, and made a comparison between the first movement
of this work with the first movement of Beethoven’s “Pathetique
Sonata,” among other things. He repeatedly uses comparisons in this
DVD series, to illustrate some of the fundamental differences in the
working methods of these great composers.

Although it was not published until 1839, 11 years after Schubert’s
death, this Sonata is the first of a trio of Sonatas that were written
shortly before he died. It is lengthy and in four movements, but is
the shortest one of the trio, taking the listener on a journey through
an interesting range of emotions. Brendel has given careful thought
to every aspect of his interpretations, which definitely shows in
his performances.

The six “Moments Musicaux,” share a single opus number; however,
they were composed separately during the years of 1823 through
1828. These pieces are some of Schubert’s most beloved piano music,
and rightly so. They range from two to seven minutes in length, and
the third one is perhaps Schubert’s most well known piano work. He
has developed them like poetic ideas, with an inevitable, natural quality
that some might find lacking in his more ambitious Sonatas. As with
the two sets of “Impromptus” from Volume Three of this series, the
“Moments Musicaux” have always been among Schubert’s most popular
piano works, and have never fallen out of favor with music lovers.
Once again, Brendel performs these pieces as though he was
“to the manner born.”

The “Drei Klavierstücke D946” were all written in 1828, but not
published until 1868, thanks in large part to Johannes Brahms
(1833-1897). As Brendel states in his introduction, the discrepancies
between the autograph manuscript  and the fair copy necessitate certain “judgment calls,” on the part of the interpreter, which he illustrates
at the piano. The “Drei Klavierstücke” are more ambitious structurally
and tonally than the “Moments Musicaux,” and demonstrate harmonic
and rhythmic daring not even found in the “Impromptus.” At the first
hearing, I found them not as immediately appealing as some of
Schubert’s more famous compositions, and they are lesser known than
most of his mature piano works. In fact, I only recognized the first
one, which is in E-flat minor. How nice it was to become acquainted
with them, at the hands of someone like Alfred Brendel!

In the past, I’ve mentioned that Brendel delivered his lectures from
written notes, while seated at the piano. For what it’s worth, his
German is spoken with impeccable enunciation. When I combined it
with the English subtitles, I found that my comprehension of German
was better than I thought! As with the other parts of this series,
“Alfred Brendel Plays and Introduces Schubert: Volume Four,” is
enthusiastically recommended. On to “Volume Five…”

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