Schubert: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D.960

THURSDAY, August 20, 2020 – 1:04 PM 

(I wrote this eight months ago. Since then I have listened to more recordings, and once again I’d like to get impressions of different recordings. Please listen to some part of each one, maybe the first couple minutes. Or pick some part in each and compare.)

1828: Schubert: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D.960

Schubert was nearly dead when he wrote this. He only lived to age 31, dying in 1828. Then it was not even published for around 10 years. There may not be one other musical marvel like this for piano that was so utterly ignored. Today the world knows it is without doubt one of the greatest things ever written for the piano.

Now, the performers…

Mitsuko Uchida…

Uchida plays with incredible subtlety and imagination. This is one of the best recordings out there.

About Mitsuko Uchida

Sviatoslav Richter

This is a very famous recording. The first movement is much slower. Some thing it is just too slow, others prefer it.

About Richter…

Stephen Kovacevich

A friend recommended this to me. It is faster, more intense. I really like this interpretation. It may be my favorite because of the strong contrasts. It’s very well balanced.

About Stephen Kovacevich

And now the rest of the story…

Once again we come back to critics and their destructive comments and opinions. They almost always get everything wrong. Over time the world overturns their wrong conclusions, and then we get to laugh at their stupidity, ignorance and arrogance.

Schumann blew it…

Schumann, the last sonatas’ dedicatee, reviewed the works in 1838, and his review was harsh. This was especially harsh because by the time Schubert had been dead about 10 years, and because he never got the kind of support or acclaim within his own lifetime that he deserved. Schumann’s was often supportive of other composers, and in general he admired Schubert. But in this case he was horribly wrong

Of course the critics were wrong. They are always wrong. But it is depressing that such a famous composer was equally blind.

Brahms got it right, and Liszt perhaps even more so…

Brahms’s attitude towards the last sonatas was different. Brahms found special interest in Schubert’s piano sonatas, and expressed his wish to “study them in depth”. Liszt is famous for championing the music of other composers and was perhaps the most open-minded, far-seeing of all these 19th century geniuses.

Everyone finally got it right by the 20th century…

By the end of the 20th century, the final Schubert sonatas frequently appeared in concerts and studio recordings, and no one today judges them less than some of the finest music ever written.

2 thoughts on “Schubert: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D.960

  1. Here are 2 very different interpretations of the same piece. Each is quite impressive in its own way. Uchida’s performance has a beautiful sound. Richter’s is rather unique and creative.

  2. Oddly enough, even knowing about the “allegro moderato”, within the first few bars of the “man pianist’s” (Richter) playing something in me just thought, “Yes, this is right.” I wanted to hear it that way. Both Uchida and Richter bring a different kind of energy into it. How nice it would have been for Schubert to get the recognition in his lifetime.

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