Schubert: Piano Sonatas 17 & 19 - Margolina
Ars Produktion ARS 38 331
Classical - Instrumental
Schubert: Piano Sonatas 17 & 19
Elena Margolina, piano
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - March 24, 2022
The big question is, has Elena Margolina embarked on a complete set of Schubert’s sonatas? Or will she do only the major ones? Thus far she has, this release included, done: 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, and 19. From the comment section on this site, it would seem that readers are looking forward to more of her personal views on these demanding sonatas. For instance, and I quote: “Great news from Ars that a further Margolina Schubert disc featuring sonatas D.850 and 958 is due, etc.".
As I said in previous reviews, Elena’s reading of Schubert is a very special one. Her approach is one of a perfect understanding of the emotion that lies at the heart of each sonata. An understanding of what moves people and why. Is it because she was born at the heart of a European melting pot? Lemberg, when it was part of Austria, Lwów, when it was part of Poland, Lvov when it was part of Russia, whilst finally finding its rightful place among ethnic Ukrainians, and named Lviv.
But there is more. Apart from appearing successfully at international contests and podia in many countries, Elena is since 2014 a piano teacher at the Faculty of the University of Music in Detmold, Germany. Having educated many successful pianists, she must have shared and explained ideas with her pupils, which in turn must have given her more insight into what moved composers such as Schubert. These observations are essential elements in ‘reading’ a score. Not just the notes, not just the markings; neither the virtuosity nor the glamour, but understanding the composer’s mindset is what in my view characterizes Elena Margolina’s refined playing.
All this, I’m convinced, is the secret of the way she shares with us her intimate knowledge about a composer that lived too short and under often dramatic circumstances. The proof of it lies in her interpretation of the first of Schubert’s final sonata trilogy: Sonata No. 19, D 958. (And may we hope to get the other two as well?)
Scholars can discuss for ages who is the best Schubert interpreter, and many will in the end conclude that Alfred Brendel is a top contender for the title. But that would be too simple. There are other names, like Sviatoslav Richter. And there is even a list on the internet where one can vote for this or that one. This is not my take. Music is not mathematics. They may all be very good (and they by and large are), but much depends on what emotion each of them can evoke in the individual music lover.
Listening to Schubert, especially to the complexity of the final three sonatas, is by no means easy, and when I listen to Elena playing D 958, the first of the three, there is something that I cannot explain, but that wins my heart. It must be the delicate empathy allowing her to create a romantically inspired portrait but is at the same time a pain-ting of a composer’s sorrow and fate.
It’s a gift.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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