on 14 December 2012
Paul Lewis is clearly a man in touch with his emotions. Wedded to exquisite pianism, Lewis nevertheless refuses to place Schubert on a pedestal. These piano works are living, breathing narratives, in which Lewis presents the full gamut of dynamics and moods in increasingly wild colours. Not for him the Schubert who pondered whether he could ever stand beside Beethoven.
The Wandererfantasie is a real statement of intent here. Proto-Lisztian, it demands great technical and emotional eloquence. Lewis made his name with performances of the Liszt B minor sonata and his rendition of Schubert's quasi-prophetic fantasy from 1822 has the same grit and determination. Delivering the granite strength of this work, Lewis also brings a sense of gravitas to the Adagio, weaving gossamer threads around its plangent melody before the muscle and majesty returns.
Less convincing is the A minor sonata D845 as a work. Schubert all too often ruminates on his melodic material rather than running free, giving a feeling of strange restriction. Lewis does brilliantly to counter such claims, pushing through phrases and building to climaxes as bold as those in the Wandererfantasie, but he cannot quite erase the doubts over this work in my mind (however bold the claims of Roman Hinke's excellent liner notes).
More persuasive are the four late Impromptus and the Moments Musicaux, where Lewis is cheeky, even evasive. But, as before, this discursive, sportive playing leads to dark passages - not least in the variations of the B flat major Impromptu. Picking out though never labouring the counterpoint, Lewis sounds like he's discovering these works for the very first time. But as well as engaging us, such emotional freshness has a real power to slay. Lewis's emotional fluency and effortless but investigative playing make for a rich listening experience.