CD review: Staier & Melnikov play Schubert

First published in the Guardian on 27 April, 2017

Schubert: Fantasie in F Minor etc
Staier/Melnikov (Harmonia Mundi)

Schubert played piano duets in living rooms, with friends, for friends. To me it feels a bit weird seeing these pieces on big stages under concert lights, so I love a recording that takes them back to living room vibe. Andreas Staier and Alexander Melnikov play a nut-warm, sweet-voiced fortepiano modelled after the kind of instrument Schubert would have known (for the cognoscenti: it’s a Graf copy by Christopher Clarke). They open with the magnum opus of duet repertoire, the F Minor Fantasie D.940, but it’s not the moody, broody thing it tends to be on modern Steinways. The sound is more intimate, more spruce; high notes have a pearliness that make the melodies really ping, and whichever pianist is playing the upper part (I’m guessing Staier — something about those flourishes) adds dainty ornaments that make the whole thing feel partly improvised. The disc also includes bits and bobs like the gracious Rondo D.951, the Variations D.813 and the 6 Grand Marches D.819.