The Music Plays On

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Arthur Schnabel

One of the great musicians of the first half of the twentieth century and someone who I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Austrian pianist and composer Arthur Schnabel had an affinity for the music of Schubert. While Schnabel is justifiably lauded for recording the first complete traversal of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, I consider his recordings of Schubert to be an even greater contribution.

While Sviatoslav Richter’s way with Schubert is like someone sharing an intimate secret with you, Schnabel’s Schubert is someone explaining the mysteries of the universe. Perhaps it’s because Schnabel was an accomplished composer, but whenever I listen to these performances I get the impression Schnabel is drawing the blueprints of a great cathedral with every note he plays. He reveals not only the structural but also the emotional foundation of each movement through his extreme attention to pacing, rhythm, and sound.

Recorded between 1932–1950, these recordings are essential.