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James Harrington
American Record Guide, March 2011

Duo d’Accord has impressed us in two previous reviews, both at one and two pianos. Their excellent Schumann (Oehms 577) and Messiaen & Beethoven (Oehms 704) made me quite pleased to see their first Schubert recording. They begin with the reading of a poem Schubert wrote in 1823, called ‘My Prayer’. A full description of its meaning to them is included in their very fine program notes. The Rondo in A has been on a couple of releases in the past year and is the first duet Huang and Euler ever played together. It is Schubert’s last piece for piano duet, and was not published until a month after he died. Unlike most of his works from the last year of his life, which display much melancholy, the Rondo is quite beautiful, lyrical and tranquil. Duo d’Accord’s performance goes to the top of my list, even surpassing the great recording by Argerich and Freire (DG 4778570). But the main reason to get this is the Sonata in C (Grand Duo). This is the largest and generally considered the greatest of Schubert’s piano duet oeuvre. It runs about 40 minutes in four movements and, while symphonic in scope, remains a work conceived for the 4-hand medium. Like Beethoven’s Symphony 9, which had its premiere (attended by Schubert) in May 1824, the ‘Grand Duo’ (composed in the summer of 1824) pushes the limits of the traditional sonata form. The demands placed on the two pianists and the piano itself were unheard of at the time this was written. We need to be thankful for a team like Duo d’Accord for overcoming all the difficulties and giving us one of the greatest Schubert releases ever. Solo Musica appears to be a new label; and the piano sound, booklet, and entire production are topnotch.

Charles Timbrell
Fanfare, March 2011

The “Grand Duo” was composed in the summer of 1824, when Schubert was appointed music instructor to the two daughters of Count Esterházy at Castle Zselíz in Hungary. Around this time, Schubert was being treated for syphilis and struggling as a freelance composer. He wrote his brother that he harbored “the fatal knowledge of our miserable reality, which I attempt to beautify as much as possible through my powers of imagination. …I am now more able to find inner happiness and peace than in the past. You will see the proof of this in a great sonata.” The work is thought to have been influenced by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which had been premiered in Vienna a few months earlier. Its four movements, symphonic in scope and totaling nearly 40 minutes, make severe musical and technical demands on both pianists—far more than any previous work for piano duet. Happily, the Duo d’Accord (Taiwanese pianist Lucia Huang and her German partner, Sebastian Euler) is fully up to the task, despite the players’ relative youth. Their ensemble is razor-sharp, their sound always perfectly balanced, and their conception grand and expressive. From start to finish, they play as one, shaping lines with a conductor’s or singer’s care, without affectedness in the great slow movement or aggression in the two exciting last movements. There have been many fine recordings of this work—including by Eschenbach and Frantz, Barenboim and Lupu, and Tal and Groethuysen—and this one is their equal.

The lovely Rondo was Schubert’s last piece for piano duet, completed in June 1828 and published shortly after his death. It is serene throughout, with gently contrasting themes and none of the grave melancholy that characterized some of his other late works. Huang and Euler play it lovingly and I would place it alongside the live performance by Argerich and Freire. I recommend this disc most highly, and I look forward to acquainting myself with this team’s other recordings, including music by Schumann, Messiaen, and Beethoven.

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