Authentic Schubert Piano Recordings

While “authentic” piano recordings of Romantic composers are not very common, there are a handful of musicians who have recorded these works on the fortepiano, or the instrument of the time of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. The best-known performer is probably Roland Brautigam, who has recorded complete sets of music, for the Swedish label Bis, by Haydn (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) and Mozart (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) . Brautigam is currently completing a cycle of Beethoven’s solo piano works – the latest release in this series is dedication to variations (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) .

While Brautigam records exhaustive sets, other performers record some of this piano repertoire on fortepiano. Andreas Staier, who recently released a recording of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on fortepiano (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), has never recorded “cycles” of any composer’s works, but flits around from one composer to another.

But these pianists tend to neglect Franz Schubert. Now that Brautigam is reaching the end of his Beethoven cycle, I hope that he will record Schubert’s many wonderful piano works.

But in the meantime, there is an excellent series of recordings of Schubert’s piano sonatas by Paul Badura-Skoda. This pianist recorded all of Schubert’s piano sonatas on three three-disc sets for the Arcana label, that were recently bundled into a box set (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). As with the other composers cited above, the fortepiano brings the listener back to the instrument that the composer used when writing the music. (Or, in the case of Mozart and Haydn, some of their music was originally composed for harpsichord.) The sound is more intimate and the sustain shorter than a modern piano. But when you consider the dynamics, the attack and the sustain, these composers wrote music for those characteristics, not for those of today’s Steinway or Bösendorfer.

And in 2013, Badura-Skoda released a two-disc set of Schubert recordings, which includes three versions of Schubert’s final piano sonata D. 960 played on three different pianos: an 1826 Graf fortepiano, a 1923 Bösendorfer, and a 2004 Steinway grand. Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Unfortunately, other recordings that Badura-Skoda made for the Astrée label, of the Impromptus, the Moments Musicaux and the Wanderer Fantasie, are out of print, and are very expensive. One can hope that these will be brought back into print someday.

But I also hope that Brautigam will start recording Schubert. He is a sensitive musician, and his recordings of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are excellent. I love listening to music of this period on original instruments. If you haven’t done so, I strongly recommend some of these recordings by Brautigam and Badura-Skoda.

6 thoughts on “Authentic Schubert Piano Recordings

  1. Hi Kirk, thanks for this article. Andreas Staier’s recording of Mozart’s piano concerto no 9 and 17 completely changed my appreciation of these works. I find it hard (and quite boring actually) to listen to versions done on modern piano now. Since then I tend to look at first for “historic” version of classical and romantic music before considering a version on modern piano, and I do the same for baroque music.
    I have a recording of the impromptus by Badura-Skoda (on Genuin), which is very good but made on his early 20th century (1910s, I think) and recent Bösendorfer, so not really ‘historic’ (I can’t really be more specific, I’ve downloaded it and don’t have the booklet).
    I would recommend Alexei Lubimov’s recording of the impromptus published by Zig-Zag Territories, it fantastic. Also if you’re interested in Chopin, cast an ear to recordings by Alex Szilazi, which, reading from his website, seems to have been recorded on a late 1840s Pleyel. I think Lubimov and Szilazi’s album are on iTunes.

    cheers

  2. Hi Kirk, thanks for this article. Andreas Staier’s recording of Mozart’s piano concerto no 9 and 17 completely changed my appreciation of these works. I find it hard (and quite boring actually) to listen to versions done on modern piano now. Since then I tend to look at first for “historic” version of classical and romantic music before considering a version on modern piano, and I do the same for baroque music.
    I have a recording of the impromptus by Badura-Skoda (on Genuin), which is very good but made on his early 20th century (1910s, I think) and recent Bösendorfer, so not really ‘historic’ (I can’t really be more specific, I’ve downloaded it and don’t have the booklet).
    I would recommend Alexei Lubimov’s recording of the impromptus published by Zig-Zag Territories, it fantastic. Also if you’re interested in Chopin, cast an ear to recordings by Alex Szilazi, which, reading from his website, seems to have been recorded on a late 1840s Pleyel. I think Lubimov and Szilazi’s album are on iTunes.

    cheers

    • Yes, that’s the one I was thinking of.

      Thanks for the other recommendations. I am ambivalent about Chopin, but it might be interesting to hear his music on a piano from his time. (As it would for Liszt.)

    • Yes, that’s the one I was thinking of.

      Thanks for the other recommendations. I am ambivalent about Chopin, but it might be interesting to hear his music on a piano from his time. (As it would for Liszt.)

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