SCHUBERT Piano Sonata in a, D 845. 3 Klavierstücke, D 946 • Phillip Kawin (pn) • MASTER PERFORMERS 15 001 (69:41)


By Colin Clarke - Fanfare


The monolingual booklet for this release includes an in-depth interview with pianist Phillip Kawin. In it, Kawin speaks with great wisdom, particularly about the relationship of musical surface to structures (something which should, but frequently does not, concern every musician). Kawin refers also to Schubert's ability to suspend time, something vital to great Schubert interpretation and something that several of the best interpreters of today (Uchida, Pires, or Imogen Cooper, for example) realize. He sees that Schubert's melodies are vocal in nature, and to bring this about in sound he uses the most beautiful legato.


In some ways, Kawin represents the ideal interpreter here, for not only does he comprehend and project the structure of the music, but his touch seems infinitely varied. So it is that within Schubert's overarching lyricism, there are myriad colors. The texture is clear throughout: Kawin's expert pedal technique ensures nothing is unnecessarily blurred. His lineage might give a clue as to the profundity of his playing: Kawin studied with Dora Zaslavsky Koch, herself a pupil of Wilhelm Backhaus and Harold Bauer (and an associate of Wanda Landowska).


From the teasing beginning to the A-Minor Sonata (1825), it is clear there is a major musical intelligence at work here. Kawin's varied touch, coupled with his long-range vision, makes this a highly involving and, moreover, satisfying experience. In keeping with this structural awareness, he retains the first movement repeat. Similarly the Andante poco moto, perfectly paced so that it really is Andante but is never at any stage rushed, emerges as a magical journey. In accordance with the importance Kawin clearly accords to this sonata, the scherzo is no mere interlude but a journeying in and of itself, within which the Trio acts as a space of pure magic. The subtle agogics Kawin employs in the finale emerge as exquisite ripples on the pond of the movement's structure.


This performance's greatest achievement is that it might well convince listeners that D 845 equals in stature the greatest of Schubert's essays in this genre. The Klavierstücke of 1827 likewise demonstrate all that is good, even great, in Kawin's approach. The first (Allegro assai) unfolds gently but impetuously, deliberately, without the intense urgency of, say, Pollini (DG). There are also flights of fantasy that are entirely in accord with late Schubert. The gentle rocking opening of the central Allegretto reveals Kawin as finding the ideal proportion of profundity and childlike simplicity; this develops into a grand canvas. The music unfolds and grows entirely naturally, its deep chordal textures perfectly weighted. It is clear that deep thought has gone into each and every simultaneity. Finally, there is a valedictory slant to Kawin's muted expression in the last piece that is most affecting.


Recorded in the Performing Arts Center Recital Hall, Purchase College, New York, and performed on a superb Steinway, the near-demonstration quality recording acts as a servant to the integrity of Kawin's readings. This release constitutes an absolute must for Schubert devotees in particular and pianophiles in general.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke Copyright © 2016 by Fanfare Inc.

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