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American Record Guide, December 2006

This is the second Schubert installment from Naxos with this impressive Austrian pianist (Sept/Oct 2004). While the early sonatas may not represent the pinnacle of the composer's achievement, they are well worth having, especially in the beautifully played and warmly recorded performances here.

It has been said that the early sonatas have considerable charm. This is certainly true, and I cannot imagine anyone who has succumbed to the composer's melodic gifts not enjoying these first fruits of his labor. D 459 appeared under the title Five Piano Pieces from the composer's publisher following his death. As pointed out in the notes, this was probably an effort to squeeze additional profits. The five­movement form is speculative at best, but D 279 most likely has the D 346 Allegretto legitimately tacked on. It's too bad the finale remains unfinished. In this recording, no attempt has been made to go further than the abrupt point where Schubert stopped composing. There is no faux-Schubert from Wallisch.

The latest one here is certainly the most musically satisfying. It was written in 1817, and Schubert is more the master of his materials and willing to experiment. Wallisch can easily stand comparison with other pianists in this repertory. There is nothing klutzy or protracted about the performances and much that is beguiling, sensitively handled, and worth the modest outlay.

Susan Kagan

It is a pleasure to welcome a young, relatively unknown pianist into the company of true Schubertians. Gottlieb Wallisch is a 28-year-old Viennese pianist who is developing a successful career. He studied in Vienna and in Paris, was a finalist in major international competitions (Queen Elisabeth and Concours Clara Haskil), and took first prize in the Stravinsky Awards (an international competition for young pianists held in the US.) He has appeared with many leading orchestras, and has already recorded several CDs showing a fairly eclectic repertoire, including music of Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Strauss, and Pfitzner.

This is Wallisch's second Schubert CD, a continuation of his traversal through the fragments and unfinished piano works (the first volume is Naxos 8.557189). Here are completed (and some unfinished) movements that some editors have fashioned into standard four-movement sonatas from the various sources, according to what they believe may have been Schubert's intentions. It is a slightly complicated, but logical ordering based on various pieces of evidence (one that the noted English pianist/scholar Howard Ferguson follows in his scholarly edition of the sonatas published by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). Wallisch himself supplies penetrating analytical notes for this beautifully recorded CD, describing and explaining the justification for these arrangements. He notes, among other things, that the piano-writing is often unwieldy and unnatural, betraying the "still rather inexperienced pianist, in no way a great virtuoso."

Scholarly considerations aside, Wallisch's performance demonstrates his complete musical empathy with Schubert. He plays with a light, sparkling touch and singing melodies, following Schubert's markings faithfully, with tasteful and unexaggerated expression. He brings out the essential character of Schubert's early style, which combines Mozart's pristine command of the Classical spirit with his (Schubert's) poignant (and sometimes startling) harmonic invention and depth of expression.

Awaiting Wallisch, as he continues this cycle, are the great sonatas of Schubert's maturity. With this promising start, one can expect to hear Schubert's piano masterpieces played with the same sensitivity and accomplishment the pianist brings to these earlier works.

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