This is South Korean Dong Hyek Lim’s fourth release for Warner Classics, https://www.warnerclassics.com/artist/dong-hyek-lim, although this Schubert pairing is my first encounter with him – in two demanding Sonatas (musically and emotionally above all) that also have distinguished discographies.
The A-major Sonata (D959) is given fluent playing from Dong (born 1984), sensitive and shapely, rhythmically springy; he does majesty well, repose and rumination even better, therefore the slow movement is especially fine, so too its stormy interruption, quite gnarled, with a vengeance, responded to with numbness and then with crisp articulation for the Scherzo that is less sparkling than usual. The Finale walks along in cordial fashion but lacks the tension needed to sustain its relative length, and the concluding bars, when the first movement’s opening music returns, come across as too easily arrived at.
The B-flat Sonata (D960), Schubert’s ultimate such work, is a curious listen. For all that Dong is ideally moderate in tempo for the first movement he also has little to impart about it beyond playing the notes, albeit very well; perhaps some intervention and mannerism (of which there is none) would have added something. Having observed 959’s exposition repeat, Dong doesn’t do so for 960’s. Hopefully it’s an artistic decision for there is room on this otherwise generously-filled disc. Leaving the repetition out means we lose the perfunctory lead-back bars (to advantage) but also the ominous bass trill on its sole fortissimo appearance (a dramatic moment); it must be said that two of the work’s greatest interpreters, Brendel and Curzon, also pass over returning to the beginning. The slow movement offers no reason for its inhospitable atmosphere or the midway beacon of hope, following which, despite Dong’s precise fingers, the Scherzo is simply too fast. The Finale though, fiery and poised, is suddenly vividly communicative, enough to send me back to the first three movements, soon.
The recording (Teldex Studio Berlin, October last year) is spacious and dynamic if a little stingy in some loud treble notes which Dong tends to stab at anyway. Warner Classics 0190296319464.