The pianist Philippe Cassard has always felt close to those Wanderers, those Romantic landscapes studded by stars and moons, traversed by mountains and valleys, those quicksilver moods. To record the Sonata D959 (completed in September 1828), one needs the profound maturity acquired through concert experience. Philippe Cassard has chosen to couple it with the three great pieces for piano four hands composed over the previous nine months, to permit the listener to retrace the chronological trajectory in reverse, from the Sonata back to the Fantasy, and realise that we have here a piano freed from all constraints, orchestral in its power, making use of every resource, cultivating the most extreme contrasts.
Of all possible chamber music combinations, ‘piano four hands’ is the one most complicated to get right: the seating position is unnatural (both players are decentred, the sound is no longer heard stereophonically), only one of the pianists plays the pedals, and the first player’s left hand and the second player’s right constantly get in each other’s way, which sometimes obliges one to adopt acrobatic positions and contortions if one wishes genuinely to play (well) all the written notes. And to ‘play together’ in a natural manner is a true challenge. Paradoxically, it is the configuration of musical friendship par excellence! But between the first run-through and the determination to constitute a truly ‘professional’ duo, there are literally hundreds of hours of practice.
Cédric Pescia is a born Schubertian. He knows how to convey Sehnsucht, that compelling melancholy inseparable from so many of the Viennese composer’s works. He has adopted, in his phrasing, the gait of the walker that traverses Schubert’s landscapes. His sonority is songlike, delicate, yet he is capable of unleashing storms in the most dramatic passages!
This album, gathering together four masterpieces of the year 1828, is a declaration of unbounded love for Schubert.