SCHUBERT Piano Sonata in D, D 850. 16 Ländler, D 734. 3 Klavierstücke, D 946 •
Béla Hartmann (pn) • Meridian CDE 84594 (78:44)
The Czech-German pianist Béla Hartmann won prizes in several important
international competitions during the 1990s and he has played in major venues
since then, with a repertoire that includes Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier,
Schubert’s complete sonatas, and works by Luciano Berio and Harrison Birtwistle.
He makes a strong impression with this disc, particularly in the Sonata in D,
one of Schubert’s most challenging. The first movement requires a virtuoso’s
finger technique, with control of fine details at a very fast tempo; the second
is lyrical but with contrasts that are sometimes overdone; the scherzo is
totally charming and almost plays itself; and the final rondo requires
dexterity, subtlety, and humor. Hartmann rises to the occasion very
impressively, and I would rank his interpretation along with the best ones by
Clifford Curzon, Alfred Brendel, and Sviatoslav Richter. Musically, he is fully
involved with every detail, but without the point-making that some players feel
obliged to make. In the first movement he is often as electrifying as Richter,
and with a B theme that is totally delicious (as the French would say). In the
finale he brings a smile to one’s face from the very first notes, delivered with
utter simplicity and charm (it seems that even the greatest Schubert players
can’t resist powdering and rouging things up each time it recurs), and the
central C section begins as wistfully as I have ever heard it. The finale
fade-out is utterly magical. In timing, balances and nuances it is maybe the
best I have heard.
I have never warmed up to the three Klavierstücke, which some Schubertians rank
among the composer’s finer late works but which I find rather pedestrian and
labored (dare one say it?!). In any case, Hartmann is an often eloquent advocate
for them, ardent in the outer sections and eloquent in the central ones. He
almost makes a believer out of me.
The Ländler provide a perfect interlude between the major works, played with
natural charm and obvious affection. All in all, this disc has provided much
pleasure, and I hope to hear more from this fine and engaging pianist. The
recorded sound is beautifully balanced throughout.