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Pentatone PTC 5186742 Here is confirmation that Francesco Piemontesi belongs to a small elite: he is a pianist that other pianists go to hear. In this ultimate musical challenge, the daunting scale of his playing constantly reminds you of a desolation and despair never far from the surface of Schubert’s lyricism. Not even the exuberant codas of the A major and B-flat Sonatas (Nos 20 and 21) erase an awareness of the shadow of the grim reaper; this is particularly notable in the massive spans of the C minor Sonata (No 19), where Piemontesi’s focus and intensity are unwavering, never more so than in the finale’s menacing danse macabre.

He is awesome and speculative in the A major while in the B-flat he achieves greatness without recourse to idiosyncrasy or extremes. He gives us the first movement repeat, contradicting Brendel’s admonition, and his Scherzo is gloriously rapid and elfin (though with a darker note sounded in the Trio). Even in a crowded field of celebrated recordings, Piemontesi’s performances are wholly exceptional, enlightening if exhausting at every level. They are crowned by Pentatone’s beautifully natural sound.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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