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Schubert -- Tirimo's speciality and, dare I say it, his musical soulmate -- is a case in point. Eight dances from D365 -- name them at your peril, but never try to count them exactly -- are far from entertaining trivia. Even more than Mozart in his 'lighter' repertoire, Schubert succeeds in embroidering his indelible mood-changing sequences with light-hearted pleasure, doubts, sudden premonitions, remembered sadness and grief. The performer's 'commentary' provides the 'narrative' without giving away any personal thoughts.

At this point, perhaps I should mention that during the preparation for this recital, Tirimo was informed of the sudden death of his beloved daughter. The contents of the recital's first half were changed quickly from Brahms to Schubert.

The A major Sonata, D959, Schubert's penultimate great work for the keyboard, stretches to the fullest extent previous personal tensions expressed during the sonatas in A minor and D major. A pride of heritage (remembering that Vienna had been 'run over' by French forces), splendidly reasserts itself in the opening bars, tempered by graceful asides, then gradually goes out of control into foreign keys, accelerating passages and a drastic pulling up of tempi. A second subject extends ideas even further. Schubert repeats his material; although this is debatable in this Sonata's first movement, and can be omitted without harming the structure. It makes sense, provided the musical flow is maintained. There was a hint of intended malice in this performance, strongly contrasting secondary poetic motives. Clinging pedal 'overhangs' on leading bass notes kept listeners on tenterhooks.

The ominous sadness of the Andantino second movement, with its startling, broken cadenza sequence, was beautifully paced in 'halting' rubati at the start of phrases. Somehow this music is as close to the Winterreise song cycle as anything else the composer wrote.

Note the sudden extensions and gradations of the Scherzo movement, where allegro vivace mustn't sound too fast to balance correctly with the plaintive D major Trio. The Rondo : allegretto finale with its elaborate central explorations that turn simplicity into an involved, complex conundrum of development, also posessed a breadth of clarity that made sense to both performer and audience.

Overall, the drama of Tirimo's reading contrasted wildly with Murray Perahia's smaller scale interpretation earlier last year at London's Royal Festival Hall.

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Copyright © 3 January 2003 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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