It's hard to imagine better performances of these works, either technically or emotionally. Brendel takes a relatively straight line through the works that reveals their varied emotional glory. This is beauty through structure, realized though a heartfelt and thoroughly considered, yet spontaneous-sounding performance. This wonderous music is simple in form, but beautiful and emotional when played spectacularly well as here by Brendel.
Recordings are from 1972 through 1975 on analog tape. Sound quality is phenomenal. There are no obvious limits imposed by the very high quality analog tape, microphone technique or recording hall, other than perhaps a touch of overload. (Piano is notoriously hard to record well due to wide dynamic range, sharp percussive attacks, a large physical volume, etc.) It would not be surprising if this digital transfer sounds better than the LPs it was originally released on. The piano is a bit close-miked, yet there is very good hall sound.
If I would be urged to choose the best of the best versions of Schubert's complete impromptus (available now in the CD market) my options would surely vacillate between two legendary renditions committed to disc in early 1970s by two of the greatest performers of the classical Viennese composer: Alfred Brendel and Radu Lupu. Each of the two versions shines and conquers you in its own right: Brendel's by a fresh and light playfulness simply inviting to soar, Lupu's by a lyrical introspection that thrills the listener giving rise to a delicate and romantic melancholy. Both betting on the beauty of this unmatched marvelous music...
Although Brendel relapsed to these wonderful impromptus in late 1980s digital recordings of the late Schubert's works (1822-1828), his previous version seems to me the definitive one, the most inspired and successful in getting the very essence of the Schubertian grace. There is an infallible joy in his playing, yet a permanent restrain controls the...
Schubert's Impromptus are among my most favorite piano music. Schubert is unique among composers in that he can evoke the most complex emotions out of the simplest and most irresistible melodies, and the changes of mood even within the space of a few bars are staggering in these pieces. To me they are the greatest measure of a pianist's heart, because while the technical challenges of the Impromptus are not enormous, a pianist must possess the kind of empathy necessary to follow the music's journey into the depths of human heartbreak and joy. Because I love this music so much, I either own or have borrowed from libraries many interpretations--Perahia, Uchida, Zimerman, Pires, Kempff--yet Brendel remains the standard against which all the others must be measured. His approach to the Impromptus is deceptively direct, never overwrought and precious, and he just lays bare their infinite richness without holding back or muddying their overall effect. My other favorite is...
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