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Thread: Franz Schubert: "Piano Sonata No.20"

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    Newbies Tobias's Avatar
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    Question Franz Schubert: "Piano Sonata No.20"

    Hi!

    I am new to this community, so please excuse me if I'm posting this in the wrong forum.

    One of my favorite films of all time is Au Hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson. There is a wonderful Schubert piece in this film, which IMDb identifies as Franz Schubert: "Piano Sonata No.20". I absolutely love this recording. I have tried listening to a few recordings of this sonata online, but none of them come close to the one in the film. It sounds like it is usually recorded in a different tempo and with a different "approach". I can enjoy them, but they don't give me what I got from the version in the film.

    Does anyone know who plays the version used and if it is available on record or maybe on CD?

    If not, does anyone happen to know of a version (preferably on a record, but CD would be OK) of this sonata that comes close to this version in sound/tempo and feeling?

    If you haven't seen the film, there are several links on youtube, where the music is heard. For example this clip is just the first ten minutes of the film, including the opening credits with the recording I'm looking for: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtVexbJ14bo Listen to the music that starts at approx. 03:48. THIS is what I'm looking for.

    Thanks//Tobias

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    It was easy enough to find out the name of the pianist. It would appear to be Jean-Joel Barbier. All I did was Google "Schubert Au Hasard Balthazar Robert Bresson" and the first item that came up was THIS. It contains the following text:
    "The credit sequence of Au Hasard, Balthazar remains one of the most startling in film history. Against a grey backdrop, the titles appear: the cast, the credits, the title, all in lower-case letters. This is accompanied by Jean-Joel Barbier's rendition of Schubert's Piano Sonata No. 20."
    I then looked up Barbier but could not find any source for a CD/record in which he plays this piece by Schubert. I had not previously heard of Barbier. He would appear to be a rather minor character on the piano scene, and as far as I know he is not a noted Schubert interpretor.

    I have listened to the piece on the video and compared it with several versions I have. I would reckon that the closest in style/speed is the version by Elisabeth Leonskaja, who is an excellent pianist and a very good Schubert interpretor. You can buy MP3 tracks of her version of Schubert's Piano Sonata No 20 at Amazon HERE. If you want all four movenents of this sonata you need item numbers 30, 57, 36, 39. (For some peculiar reason known only to Amazon, these numbers are all over the place, and not adjacent as one might expect). But if you want only the second movement (as played in the video) you want item 57. You can listen to the first minute of the piece by clicking on the item.

    Apart from Sonata No 20, may I recommend that you explore other Schubert piano sonatas. The last three, nos 19-21, were written during the last year of his short life, and they are perhaps his most well known. But some of the earlier ones (especially Nos 11-18) are quite magnificent too. One of my favourites is No 18, and I am pretty sure you would be impressed by that one, especially the second movement "Andante". For this sonata, I would recommend the version by Maria-Joao Pires. Generally speaking, other excellent Schubert pianists whom I like are Brendel, Richter, Imogen Cooper.

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    Newbies Tobias's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Thank you so much for all that information and for taking your time to help me out!

    I will try to find a record with the version by Elisabeth Leonskaja that you mention, or perhaps a CD. I don't have a practical way of listening to MP3 files with decent quality for the time being.

    Thank you for the additional Schubert piano sonata tips aswell. I only have a couple of records of Schubert's music and none of the piano sonatas. Once I have made myself acquainted with no. 20 I might get an urge to delve deeper.

    Thank you once again for all that information, it was most helpful!

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    You are welcome. I hope you will stay around the Forum at least a while longer to see what else you might be able to pick up on other music that interests you. For a start you might find of interest THIS article on Schubert.

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    Newbies Tobias's Avatar
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    There seems to be a wealth of information and knowledge in here. Unfortunately I'm not much of an expert (I collected almost everything written by Sibelius a few years ago, but apart from that I only have a very "standard" collection and knowledge), so I would probably ask more questions than I would answer if I stay. But time will tell. I will read a lot in here at least, that's for sure!

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    Senior Member Ravellian's Avatar
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    The 21st piano sonata is AMAZING, especially the first two movements. As serenely beautiful as any of Beethoven's later works.

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    Newbies Tobias's Avatar
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    I ordered the Apex CD of Elisabeth Leonskaja playing Schubert piano sonatas #20 and #13 almost immediately after getting the tip in here. But the swedish online store I used weren't very quick. Anyway, I have it now and I have had a chance to listen to it a couple of times. I am really enjoying it. The #20 more so than the #13 so far. But it is almost exactly what I wanted, so thanks again for the tip.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobias View Post
    I ordered the Apex CD of Elisabeth Leonskaja playing Schubert piano sonatas #20 and #13 almost immediately after getting the tip in here. But the swedish online store I used weren't very quick. Anyway, I have it now and I have had a chance to listen to it a couple of times. I am really enjoying it. The #20 more so than the #13 so far. But it is almost exactly what I wanted, so thanks again for the tip.
    I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying the Leonskaja CD.

    I can only recommend that you should try to acquire all of Schubert's piano sonatas from No 11 up to No 21. Some are more immediately likeable than others. By far the most popular are Nos 20 and 21. But I can virtually guarantee that once you become familiar with the others too, having played them a few times, your preferences may change, and you will come to like those which may not have had an immediate impact. As I said before, the so-called "G major" No 18 (D 894), is among my favourites. What is so nice about these sonatas, especially the late ones, is that they reflect changing moods from the joyous to the reflective to the melancholic so wonderfully. I don't think that Schubert can be beaten in this regard, and I say this as a great admirer of various other major piano composers.

    Once you have got these piano sonatas under your belt, you might move on to listen to Schubert's chamber works. He wrote some beautiful piano trios, string quartets, and a piano and a string quintet. Maybe start with what is perhaps Schubert's most famous chamber work (and a work which is among the most famous chamber pieces by any composer), his String Quintet, D 956. A very good version of this is by the Hollywood Quartet, although it is quite old now and in mono. It's a piece in 4 movements, all of which are beautiful, but the famous second movement, Adagio, is to die for. In fact, Artur Rubinstein, the famous pianist, requested this piece be played at his funeral.

    Do come back and let is know how you get on.

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