- Piano Sonata No. 19 in C minor, D. 958
- Piano Sonata No. 20 in A major, D. 959
- Piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat major, D. 960
Murray Perahia, who has gone from the contrapuntal rigors of Bach's music to the coruscating brilliance of Chopin's Études in recent recordings, turns here to the three late sonatas of Schubert. They're mammoth works whose combination of melancholy lyricism and dramatic power has fascinated pianists of all stripes, and while Perahia has proven to be something of a classicist in the Romantic repertoire, he's a natural fit for this music, which is so full of Romantic poetry yet clearly modeled on Classical forms. Tempos are judiciously chosen, emphasizing the vocal qualities of Schubert's melodies; even the first movement of the B-flat Sonata -- drawn out to a virtual Adagio by so many pianists -- flows naturally here. Perahia makes the most of the music's astonishing harmonic surprises by using a broad palette of colors instead of fussing with the tempo. Some may feel that he softens the music's bite at times, and his performance of the C Minor Sonata is much less starkly dramatic than, say, Brendel's. But listen to how he plumbs the dark depths of the slow movement; instead of coming off as an interlude, as it usually does, it becomes in Perahia's hands the heart of the work. Of course, no one recording sums up everything there is to say about these extraordinary pieces, but Perahia's restrained, poetic performances tell us a lot -- and they're beautifully recorded, too.