by Maria João PiresMaria João Pires


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The great Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires has issued some career-defining albums in the first years of the 21st century, and this 2013 album, covering perhaps Franz Schubert's two most ambitious sonatas, is certainly among them. It's a challenging yet sensuous performance with enough in it to reward many multiple hearings. The two sonatas are treated somewhat differently, but both readings find a midpoint between the big old-fashioned concert-hall Schubert and newer readings, often on historical instruments, that emphasize the intimate, somewhat intellectual nature of the circle for which Schubert composed a lot of his music. Pires delivers plenty of power, but these are at heart performances that delve deeply into the music. The "Piano Sonata in B flat major, D. 960," is the more restrained of the two here, and that is in a sense its point: Pires gives shape to this gigantic work without ever raising her voice or resorting to grand gestures, and in so doing she creates music with a preternatural breathing quality and some really eerie effects as the harmony enters previously uncharted areas. In the "Piano Sonata in A minor, D. 845," there is greater dynamic range, but the emphasis is once again on long-range structure. The beginning is toned down and treated primarily as a kernel of motivic development as the opening movement proceeds. The purely lyric aspect is not absent from Pires' readings, but it is confined to discrete passages, which only makes it more effective. Listen to the absolutely magical trio of the scherzo of the A minor sonata, one of the most arresting treatments of this passage on recordings. Strongly recommended, and proof that there's life yet in the old model of major label and star pianist.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/05/2013
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
UPC: 0028947781073
catalogNumber: 001622502
Rank: 145400


  1. Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat major, D. 960
  2. Piano Sonata No. 16 in A minor, D. 845 (Op. 42)

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