Paul Cantrell’s music blog & podcast
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Schubert Impromptu D899.4, played by Don Betts

This is a very familiar piece (to piano aficionados, anyway) — but you’ll find Don’s performance a little refreshingly unfamiliar. It’s not a wild departure from custom, but there’s just a subtle tip in the balance in his performance that makes the feeling of the piece quite different.

In the last entry I mentioned the question of foreground and background. When most pianists play this piece, they put the right hand squarely in the foreground: what you hear is a series of speedy cascades down, a fun bit of finger gymnastics. But when Don plays it, he balances foreground between the left and the right, and what emerges is the slower underlying chord progression. Instead of a nervously flitting thing, it becomes a smoothly unfolding one. That reading brings us to what is to me the essential nature of Schubert: a tiny thing with a vast interior, a world opening from a single moment.

Impromptu D899 No 4 (a.k.a. Op 90 No 4, in A flat minor)
Donald Betts, piano

There is one more recording from Don’s living room I’ll post. After that, he recently made two more in the concert hall that are quite special that I’d like to share with you.