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Schubert: Piano Sonata No 21 D960, Allegretto in C minor D915 and Moments Musicaux D780. Original recording remastered

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. I. Molto Moderato
  2. II. Andante Sostenuto
  3. III. Scherzo (Allegro Vivace Con Delicatezza)
  4. IV. Allegro Ma Non Troppo
  5. Allegretto In C Minor D915
  6. No.1 In C (Moderato)
  7. No.2 In A Flat (Andantino)
  8. No.3 In F Minor (Allergetto Moderato)
  9. No.4 In C Sharp Minor (Moderato)
  10. No.5 In F Minor (Allegro Vivace)
  11. No.6 In A Flat (Allegretto)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great interpretation of a great sonata 27 July 2013
By Stanley Crowe - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The first recording I ever heard of this sonata was Rubinstein's, from the mid-1960's, and he made it seem, credibly, an airy and cheerful piece. The tonal sheen of his playing was a pleasure in itself. Since then, I've heard Schnabel, Richter, Pollini, Brendel, Curzon, and Kovacevich, and it seems that they all bring a darker hue to it than Rubinstein did, and appropriately so, I think. All of these are estimable performances. I like the ones that include the first movement repeat (Curzon doesn't, and I don't think the Brendel I own does either). Of these fuller versions, this is the one that sticks in my mind. The impression I get is that Kovacevich sees the first and second movements as a whole, and the emotional force of the piece builds from the opening bars right through to the end of the second movement. Richter makes something very long -- but compelling -- of the first movement, and the second movement is somewhat in contrast to that. With Pollini, there's interesting and intriguing attention to details of dynamics and tempo in all movements, and he gives each its own character in very absorbing ways, but it doesn't "build" as Kovacevich's does. I'm not saying that Kovacevich gets it "right" while the others fall short -- only that I find his reading compelling, and to be fair to the others, I'm compelled by theirs as I listen. The music is so great that you really need several recordings anyway!

I agree with the reviewer who raised questions about EMI's sound for Kovacevich. Over the course of his Beethoven set of sonatas, the sound quality varies a lot. On my equipment, the Schubert sound is not stellar, but it isn't distracting.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Perfect Record. 3 July 2016
By 88FingersBas - Published on
Great music, brilliantly performed, and captured in excellent sound/audio quality. This is what lovers of great music spend thousands of dollars on an endless amount of recordings over a lifetime to find. This is what we have here. I'm somewhat surprised at the mixed reviews. Back in the day, when Gramophone magazine and The Penguin Guide were essential resources to those who love great music, Kovacevich's recording of Schubert's last sonata was considered THE one to have...anyhow...

Schubert's last piano sonata occupies a space in that incredible netherworld which Beethoven's late period occupies - somewhere between the Classical and Romantic era, somehow simultaneously embracing and ignoring both styles, although Beethoven's late period is also imbued with Baroque influences, imitative polyphony and fugues. Some of the shocking contrasts, unpredictable dynamics, intentional ambiguity, and tonal and harmonic chaos in late Beethoven and Schubert (keep in mind the era!) have never been equaled or employed as effectively, although many will find Schubert's music from this period to be more approachable or easier to "get" than Beethoven's final compositions. The remarkably great compositions of Schubert's last years, particularly his chamber music, include some of the greatest compositions written for any instrument or ensemble and this is his greatest piano composition from that period.

Kovacevich just seems to get everything right. This is not an unusual or idiosyncratic interpretation; Kovacevich just has a very firm handle on the complexities of the piece, the form and structure, and the musical architecture and landscape, in other words, the forest, yet he handles the trees delightfully, as well. This is a very difficult piece to pull off musically and intellectually, and Kovacevich does it with ease. It's an immensely satisfying experience. Poetry and repose, simple lyricism and harmonic aggression, epic drama and contrasts, silence and thunder - S.K. handles all these elements like a great sculptor whose final product is beyond reproach.

As for the Audio Quality: I understand the concern some might have over the audio. Unfortunately, Kovacevich's Beethoven Sonata cycle, which contains some of the greatest performances of those timeless works I've ever heard, are difficult to listen to because of the harsh, abrasive, metallic audio sound which EMI's sound engineers/producers provided. That is not the case here. I have never had a problem with the audio quality of this recording, and while it may not have the same luxuriously rich sound that is on some recordings by Pollini, Krystian Zimerman, or Emil Gilels, it's still very good, and I find it appropriately aggressive in certain sections when the music dictates such an approach.

Unbelievably, this recording has been out of the catalog for many years. You'll probably have to go to a third party to get it, however, there are many reliable 3rd party sellers nowadays, and I just consider this a no-brainer purchase if you're remotely interested in this music.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pivotal and definitive 24 Jan. 2011
By Sonata - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I'm compelled to write because of the reviewer who gave this magnificent recording just one star and thereby dragged the overall assessment down to a ridiculous level. How often do you see two 5 star reviews that are well spoken in conjunction with a 1 star review of a couple of sentences? My suggestion to the disgruntled critic would be to return your CD, but don't punish the artist.

The D960 is a sonata I have collected for decades: all the virtuosos of the 20th century had their crack at it, but it's mysteries were always just out of reach--Until this landmark recording. As with Beethoven, structure is everything in late period Schubert and especially in a sonata of this length, and complexity. Kovacevich was the first to decode it, hold it all together and frame the poetry and other-worldliness into a performance that creates note-by note tension. I believe the other favorable reviews of this performance support this view.

In the years after this CDs release, other fine pianists seemingly went to school on the groundwork that was laid here and there are now several other fine recordings. But it started here. This performance has the spontaneity of discovery (for Kovacevich was the first to make sense of all the voices and mysticism and weave them together so cohesively). Perahia would follow a decade later and make this music beautiful, but not as mystical. In the past 15 years everyone has rushed to record the D960, now that it's been "mapped." There's a reason why The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs recognized this recording above all the rest. I don't consider that guide to be the Bible, just a worthwhile source that in this case was dead on.

The only other subsequent version to consider if you are purchasing this sonata for the first time is the Lief ove Andsnse version. In the first movement of Kovacevich's version, he produces a clangorous sound--briefly--during a passage of intense dynamic shifts. Whether it's his playing or the recording is immaterial- given it's brevity and the immense nature of his interpretation. Andsnes negotiates this passage work to better effect (or is simply better recorded) and his interpretation throughout is brilliant and majestic. The pairing on the Andsnes recording may not be to everyone's taste, but his playing here should be heard. As an aside I would also recommend Andsnes remarkable recordings of the late Haydn sonatas--the best I've heard.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine performance poor recording 2 Feb. 2011
By J. TIMMERMAN - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The big mistake Kovacevich made in his career was to sign up with EMI. They've given him a pretty rough treatment. His earlier PHILIPS recordings are warm and realistic, his EMI recordings are generally thin and harsh. I don't think EMI engineers know where to place a microphone or which one to use (for a piano anyway, certainly any that Kovacevich plays). I've read this recording described as realistic, truthful and excellent - I strongly disagree. As benchmarks I have a couple of Australian Broadcasting Corporation piano recordings (Beethoven Bagatelles & Australian Piano Music) that put this - and his others - to shame. Comparing the D960, the Sokolov (live), Foldes, Kempff and Paul Lewis recordings I have are all easier on the ear than this one (although I would have expected more from the Lewis one). And Brendel's Moments are better.

Performance wise, these are very fine as we would expect - learned, searching, dynamic, individual. The D960 has impressive depth and the Moments are a delight - No.4 is played at fast speed which seems exactly right. The Moments, recorded 6 months after the sonata, sound slightly better too.

So buy this for the performance, but be warned about the crap recording. Or choose from the many other fine recordings, there's plenty, and have the best of both worlds. I'm going to try Lupu and Andsnes next.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificently realized interpretation, great and essential 14 Oct. 2004
By Jack T. - Published on
Format: Audio CD
In the great Sonata in B-flat, Kovacevich gives hint that beyond the haunting tranquility of the piece is stillness, beyond the sorrow, a raging despair. Like Uchida, his Molto Moderato for example is slow in the Richter tradition, and yet unlike him, Kovacevich has subtly recognized and conveyed the frightening and barely repressed aggression. Uchida in comparision nearly shares Kovacevich's view, but on repeated listenings she strikes the ear as dwelling too dramatically on the despair and resignation, rendering a performance that sounds cold and hollow. Kovacevich's performance may project Schubert's despair, but it surpasses hers in that it also conveys the sweetness of existence, the anger that it may be so fleeting, and without Brendel's optimism, there is ultimate acceptance--Kovacevich's is the red-blooded and ultimately human performance, and as a wholly realized interpretation, it is successful beyond argument and essential to your collection. Not as an alternative but as comparison, I would recommend the greatest performance of another extreme, being Pollini's, for he sculpts this sonata into music of magnificent austerity. Both versions are so truly different, together they reveal Schubert's masterpiece as limitless and always sublime.
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