Pianist Inon Barnatan Records New Solo Album Out Today
Called "a born Schubertian" by Gramophone magazine, pianist Inon Barnatan has recorded his second solo album for the AVIE label, released today, September 10, 2013.
Featuring works written during the last year of Schubert's life the album includes his sonatas, D 958 and D 959, and his Impromptu No. 3. Mr. Barnatan wrote the liner notes for the album (provided in full below) as he did for his debut album for AVIE, Darknesse Visible (2012), which debuted in the Top 25 of the Billboard Traditional Classical chart and was named one of The New York Times' Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012.
Mr. Barnatan says in his album notes, "And I think it was then, hearing different musicians name their 'top ten' lists, that it first struck me how many lists contained not only works by Schubert, but pieces he composed in the last year of his life...In that short year Schubert produced not only some of his most enduring works, but some of the greatest masterpieces in the history of music."
The two sonatas in this album, Mr. Barnatan says, display Schubert's honest and genuine voice as he transcends the shadow of Beethoven and faces his own impending death. Both pieces are opposite in character but carry the same unsettling undertones. In the last year of his life, Mr. Barnatan says, Schubert was "at the height of his compositional powers," but "only too aware of an alarming deterioration in his physical and mental health."
Mr. Barnatan is widely recognized for refined, communicative, insightful playing that combines an extraordinary depth of musicianship and an impeccable, virtuosic technique. Hailed by The New Yorker as "a pianist of uncommon sensitivity," Mr. Barnatan is often praised for his naturally expressive, poetic music making throughout a diverse range of imaginative programs with repertoire from the classical to the contemporary. Following this album release, Mr. Barnatan will give a recital at London's Wigmore Hall on September 18 that includes Schubert's Piano Sonata in A Major D 959 along with a new piece by Matthias Pintscher commissioned for Mr. Barnatan by The Aspen Music Festival, Concertgebouw, and Wigmore Hall. Mr. Barnatan's 2013-14 engagements in the United States include concerto performances with the Bangor Symphony, Boulder Philharmonic, Fresno Philharmonic, and Oregon Symphony and recitals for the Frederic Chopin Society in St. Paul, Houston da Camera, and for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Franz Schubert (1791-1828)
Piano Sonata in C minor, D958
Piano Sonata in A major, D959
Impromptus (4) for Piano, D899/Op. 90: no. 3 in G flat major-Andante
Schubert's Late Sonatas: Past, Present and Future
When I was a student my fellow musicians and I would often, and excitedly, name our favourite pieces to one another. The question of favourites now pops up regularly and is posed to me by countless concert-goers and journalists, and I try and stay as well away from a direct answer as a parent asked to name his favourite child. But as students my friends and I were less mindful. And I think it was then, hearing different musicians name their 'top ten' lists, that it first struck me how many lists contained not only works by Schubert, but pieces he composed in the last year of his life. Most string players would name the String Quintet in their top five list, many singers would name Schwanengesang, and pianists (or at least the less virtuosically minded ones) would often choose one of the late sonatas or four-hand works. In that short year Schubert produced not only some of his most enduring works, but some of the greatest masterpieces in the history of music.
What is it about Schubert's last year that makes it so remarkable, so special? What makes these pieces so beautiful to us? There are many possible answers to this question, but I think one of them has to do with the music's personal nature. It seems to come so directly from Schubert's soul that it touches ours more insistently. It is often a dangerous endeavour to ascribe biographical or historical meaning to music which is, essentially, not programmatic. Composers wrote some of their sunniest pieces in their darkest hours, and vice versa. Even so, it is hard to resist the conclusion that, between the death of Beethoven in late 1827 and Schubert's own death in 1828, Schubert's music seems more intense, its emotional reach extended. The piano sonatas were composed within a short few months in 1828, and it seems Schubert intended for them to be published together. The last three piano sonatas, in particular, suggest a journey through Schubert's life, a personal musical diary of both immense scope and intimate detail. The three sonatas are, in some ways, the three main chapters of his autobiography: past, present and future. For my first solo album I chose to record the last of these sonatas, the B flat sonata D960. It was like starting at the end. The piece's sense of sublime resignation makes us feel as if Schubert is looking beyond the present, into the future.