Monday, January 17, 2011

Schubert as Finished by Ernst Křenek

This week I present one of Schubert's finest unfinished works, the Piano Sonata in C major, D. 840.  He left only the first two movements completed, with two others in fragmentary form.  Most pianists are content to play just the two completed movements, but not Eduard Erdmann - some of whose recordings Satyr has been giving us lately.  In 1921, Erdmann asked Ernst Křenek (1900-1991) to complete the sonata for him.  Křenek (pictured above as a young man) obliged, and his version was published in 1923.  It's a fine one which is all but forgotten today, and it appears to have been recorded only twice.  In the 1950s it was included as part of Friedrich Wührer's traversal of Schubert's piano sonatas in three Vox Boxes, but before that it had been recorded by Ray Lev for the Concert Hall Society in its subscription series.  It is this version which I present here:

Schubert-Krenek: Piano Sonata in C major, D. 840 and
Schubert: Allegretto in C minor, D. 915
Ray Lev, piano
Recorded c. 1947
Concert Hall Society set B-3, four red vinyl 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 53.12 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 34.24 MB)

Ray Lev (1912-1968) was an unfortunate figure among American pianists; in 1950 she was identified as a Communist sympathizer by the "Red Channels" report naming 151 alleged Communists in the entertainment industry.  This effectively ended her career and a comment on one blog that I've seen actually speculates that she committed suicide (she died on my fifth birthday, May 20, 1968) - see here.  The excellent Wikipedia article about her, written by my friend and fellow record collector David Hoehl, can be found here.  Her recording of the Schubert C Major Sonata is excellent but may not be to all tastes; it's considerably more brisk than Wührer's or any others that I've heard (Kempff, Richter).

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