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The Complete Piano Sonatas

The Complete Piano Sonatas

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After the tremendous success of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, Arcana re-releases the companion set of Schubert sonatas with a new design and the addition of the indispensable booklet notes written by Paul Badura-Skoda. An absolute must-have, the ‘Desert Island Schubert’ according to Diapason magazine.

For as long as he could remember, Paul Badura-Skoda always felt an intimate bond with Schubert’s music. At a time when knowledge of the composer was still very sketchy, he scrutinized the princeps editions and manuscripts in order to track down errors and to establish Urtext versions which are regarded as reference editions today. But beyond that, he was able to complete certain movements that Schubert had left unfinished, though without introducing music foreign to the composer. In the exhaustive essay which he made a point of writing for this complete recording, we can read with profit, sonata by sonata, the nature of the work he accomplished.

The choice of period instruments responds to a search for colors and sound ranges favoring a greater intimacy with the composer’s music, permitted by the use of only those instruments which Schubert knew and played and for which he actually wrote his music. Yet what is most striking is the sense of identification between the performer, Badura-Skoda, and the composer, Schubert. In this recording of the complete piano sonatas on period instruments, made in Vienna between 1991 and 1996, the Viennese maestro gave us the result of a lifetime’s work: Schubert’s music with his passion, his suffering, and that inimitable tone which makes his native city the place so essentially and existentially identified with music.


These recordings of Franz Schubert's twenty piano sonatas were set down by Paul Badura-Skoda between 1991 and 1996. They were originally released as separate volumes before being gathered together in a box set in 2013. They've now been re-released under an attractive new livery. The previous incarnation required the purchaser to download the annotations, but this time a beautifully produced booklet, stretching to 75 pages, in English only, is included. Written by Badura-Skoda himself, there's an in-depth discussion of each of the sonatas in addition to black and white photographs of the instruments featured.

What amazes me is the difference in timbre between the pianos featured. Each has its own individuality and character and I wonder whether the pianist had these qualities in mind when choosing a particular piano for a specific work.

The performances are nicely paced and tempi always feel just right. Slow movements are eloquent and expressive and fast movements never lack élan. Badura-Skoda elicits a wealth of color from the pianos due, no doubt, to his familiarity with the instruments. Rhythm carries you along and phrases are intelligently shaped and articulated. There's real conviction to the playing. Badura-Skoda's love and affection for the instruments comes over in the performances, and there's no doubt that these early instruments give free rein to his imagination and interpretive abilities. This, in turn, not only renders his performances characterful and engaging, but brings the listener closer to Schubert's sound world.

Despite the five year span of the recordings and the variety of instruments, there's a consistency in sound quality throughout. The various Vienna locations used are all conducive to providing an intimate experience. Microphone placement ensures that balance is ideal. Like his modern piano version, which I would also recommend (Sony 88985395492), Badura-Skoda conveys the bountiful lyricism and romantic dreams of these alluring scores. This set is a must-have for period performance lovers of these works.

-- MusicWeb International (Stephen Greenbank)

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    • UPC/Barcode: 3760195732052
    • Item Number: A205