A recital bursting with exhilaration

Elizabeth Leonskaja, Schubert Recital, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 24

Elizabeth Leonskaja has strong and direct links to the great school of Russian piano playing through Sviatoslav Richter with whom she gave duet recitals earlier in her career. Her all-Schubert recital began with the Allegretto in C minor D915, a sombre and effective piece written for a friend who was moving to a new posting. The mood was well caught and the shadow of the recently died Beethoven was never too far away.

The easy going A major sonata flowed comfortably with an apt tempo for the first movement and the pianist drawing a fine melodic thread in the slow movement. The joyous finale was excellently played, the scale passages glistening brightly.

The Wanderer Fantasy burst forcefully upon us, Leonskaja capturing and relishing the work’s imperious, martial opening. Despite its almost symphonic concept and proportions it was not all sound and fury, the pianist highlighting the interesting accompaniment to the main theme of the slow movement. The third movement Presto bounded along with exuberance and her playing of the finale was electrifying, making the best possible case for the music.

And so to A major again, and the central of the three great sonatas written only weeks before his death. In the first movement the essence of Schubert prevailed yet suffused with a sense and awareness of Beethoven that made for a cogent and compelling performance. The slow movement with its dripping quavers and astonishing outbursts was simply mesmerising and Leonskaja extracted maximum impact from the harmonic explorations towards the end. She showed the lightest and most dextrous of touches in the feathery scherzo and made some telling points in the trio.

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The finale can outstay its welcome but there was no chance of that as this most intelligent of pianists hit the Allegretto spot immediately, allowing the triplets to breathe but still capturing the exhilaration of the final presto.

Gareth Jones

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