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It has been three years since Chandos issued the first volume of Barry Douglas’ Schubert survey (CHAN 10807), so this successor, recorded in February 2016, has been a long while coming. Similar to Volume 1, coupling the final sonata (B-flat major D960) with the Wanderer Fantasy and a couple of Liszt’s song transcriptions, Douglas has moved a touch back in time to pair the preceding sonata with the Impromptus D899.

I was hugely impressed by Lars Vogt’s recording of the Impromptus(1827) a few months ago, and Douglas’ interpretation is of equal stature. Douglas is a little swifter, but only by a minute overall – and most of that is accounted for in the first in C minor, Allegro molto moderato. In the remaining three pieces the differences amount to a handful of seconds, yet Douglas’ touch often seems brighter and more pointed, while Vogt appears more relaxed. I cannot choose between them, so both will adorn my shelves.

Schubert’s 20th Sonata is a remarkable fusion of the conventional and the original in its reinvention of traditional four-movement forms and reworking of material from an earlier sonata, yet is overshadowed by No 21 (of which there are twice as many recordings currently available). As in the Impromptus, Douglas allows the music room to breathe while rendering its structure with clear-sighted rigour. It is a marvellous account, the Andantino a model of power and delicacy succeeded by a quicksilver Scherzo, all superbly captured by Chandos’ rich sound. The resonant acoustic of the Curtis Auditorium of Cork’s School of Music is another audible difference with Ondine’s very natural but intimate sound for Vogt: Douglas’ feels like a recital hall performance. Terrific.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing