Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat Major D960

Earlier this week, my patron Renato inquired:

“So, what is Dr. Bob’s prescription for Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat Major D960 (I listen to Richter’s in Praga 1972) and for Debussy’s Prelude Book I (Michelangeli DG is my choice)? Thanks a lot. Cheers.”

These works were featured in my absurdly entitled but well-intentioned Great Courses survey “The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works.” That they are featured indicates that I love them dearly; generally speaking, I only talk about music I love. (There is the occasional exception because sometimes a piece of music is so very bad that it just has to be discussed, like Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory, although once heard, such a piece of music cannot be unheard.)

I’m going to address Renato’s question in two separate posts: here the Schubert B-flat and next week the Debussy Préludes.

The Schubert Sonata No. 21 in B-flat Major is a warm, expansive and lyric piece, composed in September of 1828, just two months before Schubert’s death on November 19. It is filled with long, song-like themes, a particular trademark of Schubert’s instrumental music. The temptation – particularly in its lengthy first movement – to succumb to the “leisurely” can be overwhelming, and succumb the great Sviatoslav Richter does.…

See the prescription on atreon