The Deceptively Easy Mastery of Gilbert Kalish

In this recording of Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, Gilbert Kalish presents an appealing program of works he knows well. The opening and closing works are the final piano sonatas of their respective composers — Haydn and Schubert, with a selection of short works by Beethoven in the middle.

Haydn’s Sonata No. 62 in E-flat (Hob.XVI:52)  was composed for a gifted performer, and is one of Haydn’s more complex piano works. Nonetheless, Kalish keeps things light and elegant. His well-rounded phrasing and subtle emphasis captures Haydn’s reserved elegance perfectly.

Kalish also plays Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat, D. 960 in a slightly reserved fashion — but it works. Rather than overwhelming the listener with emotion, Kalish’s performance reveals the beautiful construction of the work. One hears the intricate patterns and lines of the sonata, rather than a furious rush of notes.

The Bagatelles, Op. 119 of Beethoven balance nicely with the two sonatas. These are short, relatively simple works (by Beethoven standards). Each bagatelle is lovingly performed by Kalish, turned into miniature gems by his musicianship.

Kalish plays with the fluid assurance that comes from a lifetime of music-making. He isn’t trying to prove anything, or even assert his personality. He just plays, and it sounds like he’s enjoying every moment. As did I.

Franz Joseph Handy: Sonata No. 62 in E-flat, Hob.XVI;52; Ludwig van Beethoven: Bagatelles, Op. 119; Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat, D.960
Gilbert Kalish, piano
Bridge Records

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