In 2013, Vladimir Ashkenazy celebrated his fiftieth year as a Decca recording artist. Born in Gorky, he began playing the piano at the age of six and was accepted at the Central Music School at the age of eight. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory, having studied with Lev Oborin.
He won second prize in the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1955, first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels in 1956, and joint first prize with John Ogdon in the 1962 International Tchaikovsky Competition. Since then, he has built an extraordinary career, not only as one of the most renowned and revered pianists of our times, but as an artist whose creative life encompasses a vast range of activities and continues to offer inspiration to music-lovers across the world
Franz Schubert was a late starter, when it came to composing Piano Sonatas ; he had already composed Operas, Masses, Symphonies, Quartets and literally hundreds of songs, before he set to work on the Sonata...and yet he was only twenty years old !
The first Sonata played here - no.13 in the complete list - in A major, is as happy as profoundly beautiful music is capable of being. And yet, ironically, Franz himself, once commented ,"is there really such a thing as cheerful music ? I do not know of any".
Side One, tracks 1 -3 : Piano Sonata in A major, by Schubert, performed by Ashkenazy :-
1) I Allegro moderato 2) II Andante 3) III Allegro
The Hungarian melody, next on the album, was written in its titular nation, while Franz was staying there in 1824. He picked up the theme in the kitchen of his host family, where a maid was singing traditional folk fare.
Side One, track 4: Hungarian melody, by Schubert, played by Ashkenazy.
Side Two begins with another Piano Sonata, this time in A minor. This Sonata was written in the last stage of Schubert's life, when illness had just begun to creep up on him (he eventually died at the tender age of 32). Despite, or maybe because of the knowledge of his own failing health, he produced several of what have been termed, "supreme achievements of mankind". This Sonata is both taut and economically written. The second subjects, though serene , stand "quite on their own, like visions of paradise, and play no part in the development sections".
Side Two, tracks 1 -3 : Piano Sonata in A minor, by Schubert, played by Ashkenazy :-
1) I Allegro giusto 2) II Andante 3) III Allegro vivace
Schubert loved to improvise waltzes for his friends to dance to. The twelve Waltzes played here, range from the pianistic of no.9 to the orchestral of no.12, with an exquisite prediction of Chopin in no.s 5 and 6.
Side Two, track 4: Twelve Waltzes, by Schubert, performed by Ashkenazy.
Records graded visually to RRPG grades (record/sleeve) EX/VG+.