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.