In this thoughtful and measured recital, French pianist Bertrand Chamayou gives evocative accounts of a wide range of Schubert pieces. In the liner notes, Chamayou suggests that the album is “a kind of imaginary recital programme, along the lines of a concert that could have been heard in Vienna at the beginning of the Romantic period, in the cosy and intimate atmosphere of a salon… but which, for various historical reasons, could not have happened in this form”. While several other pianists have used the idea of a Schubertiade as inspiration for recital programming, the anachronistic inclusion of arrangements and transcriptions by Liszt and Richard Strauss make this a performance to remember, and prove that Chamayou has put a considerable amount of thought into this CD.
At its heart is a strong performance of the Wanderer-Fantasie, a work that Chamayou infuses with a crucial sense of interconnection between the movements. It’s particularly important here, as the whole work is built on a motif taken from Schubert’s lied Der Wanderer, and that vital link is neatly highlighted.
The other major works on the disc include the late Drei Klavierstücke D946, and the delightful 12 Ländler D790. The Klavierstücke were written within the last six months of Schubert’s life, and are something of a follow-up to the more famous Impromptus. Chamayou’s approach here is clear-cut and crystalline, but with the Schubertian ability to turn a beguilingly tuneful melody into something rather darker at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, the 12 Ländler find Schubert in a lighter mood, and it’s suggested in the liner notes that “the sound-world of these dances is probably closest to the spirit of the Schubertiades”. This raises a subtle point regarding Chamayou’s eminently sensible programming; pianists often lump several of Schubert’s later sombre works together without any concern for the cumulative effect. Here, the lighter Ländler lift the mood without breaking it, making the later introduction of the more introspective side of Schubert far more affecting.
The included set of Liszt and Richard Strauss reworkings are highly effective at evoking an ‘idealised’ Schubert – it’s refreshing to not only hear Schubert’s originals! The opening Liszt transcription of the famous lied Auf dem Wasser zu singen is virtuosic and, at the same time tastefully performed, and the closing Strauss ‘reminiscence’ is a calming and harmonically bold final departure from the musical language of the early 19th century. Bravo!