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Schubert: The Complete Impromptus - Impromptus D 899 & D 935 / Gerardo Teissonniere

Release Date: 10/06/2023
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30220
Composer:  Franz Schubert Performer:  Gerardo Teissonničre Number of Discs: 1

Pianist Gerardo Teissonnière follows up his highly acclaimed STEINWAY & SONS debut recording with an album of Franz Schubert's complete Impromptus, an important cornerstone of the entire piano literature.

“Franz Schubert has occupied a very special place in my heart since I first became acquainted with his chamber music and piano works. He has been my great friend ever since, and my love for his music only grew in scope after my studies with two disciples of the Austrian composer’s great champion and interpreter, Artur Schnabel. The Impromptus are an exemplary and important cornerstone of the entire piano literature, and a natural choice after my album of the last Beethoven sonatas.”

— Gerardo
Read more Teissonnière

Album Credits:
Recorded March 21-24, 2023 at Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia
Recording Producer: Elaine Martone, Sonarc Music
Recording, Editing, Mixing and Mastering Engineer: Daniel Shores
Assistant Engineer: Joshua Frey

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon Feidner
Cover Photo: Wien Museum
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Program Notes: Evan Fein
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Piano: Steinway & Sons Model D #590904 (New York)
Piano Technician: John Veitch

R E V I E W S:

The list of great composers who died in their 30s is dishearteningly long: Bellini at 33, Mozart at 35, Bizet and Purcell at 36, Mendelssohn and Gershwin at 38, Chopin and Weber at 39 – and Schubert at 31. Yet Schubert, like Mozart, was amazingly prolific and matured in remarkable ways in his last works, even though his earlier ones had already shown a sure mastery of form and expression. The eight Impromptus – two sets of four – that Schubert wrote the year before his death, in 1827, have become foundations of the piano repertoire and summations of Schubert’s keyboard thinking and innovation. Despite their title, the works are less improvisatory in feeling than similarly labeled ones written around the same time by Liszt, Marschner, Czerny, Moscheles and others. They do, however, fit within the concept of self-contained piano pieces – especially the D. 899 quartet. The D. 935 works share more elements of connection among them (such as the first and last both being in F minor) and have some characteristics of a sonata – one example among many of Schubert blurring structural boundaries in the service of his communicative concerns. The complete set of Schubert’s Impromptus gets a stunning performance by Gerardo Teissonnière on a new Steinway & Sons CD. The works’ contrast of boldness and delicacy, their frequent songlike elements, and their melodic lyricism all come through clearly in these readings, with the pieces’ beauty taking precedence throughout over their unusual qualities (examples: Op. 90, No. 1 starts in minor and ends in major, while No. 2 starts in major and ends in minor; Op. 90, No. 3 is in the rarely used key of G-flat major and is Schubert’s only instrumental work in that key). Intimacy and poetic sensibility are the watchwords here as Teissonnière negotiates the works’ technical complexities without apparent effort, staying always focused on the depth of their emotional expression. The second set of Impromptus is more substantial than the first (42 minutes vs. 31 in Teissonnière’s performances) and includes a lovely theme-and-variations movement whose theme is similar to one that Schubert used in his Rosamunde incidental music. The final work in D. 935 is fascinatingly unpredictable in accentuation and requires close attention to rhythm and complete comfort with wide swings of emotions and notes (including, at one point, a dramatic four-octave keyboard descent). One of the best things about Teissonnière’s playing is the extent to which these structural elements and demanding portions of the music fade into the background and become largely irrelevant to listeners: what matters is how the pianist absorbs the building blocks of the Impromptus and uses their complexity to reach out emotionally and touch the audience. The first-rate technique and clear intellectual understanding that underpin Teissonnière’s performances combine to produce effects that make the death of Schubert at so young an age all the more tragic.

-- Infodad

Who doesn’t love a good impromptu? The short, one-movement form is the right length for all attention spans and offers abundant opportunity for creative expression by composer and performing artist alike. Yet despite the positives, we can name on one hand the composers who turned to the impromptu with serious attention: Chopin, Fauré, Schubert and, perhaps, the first person to use the term, Jan Václav Vorísek (1791-1825), a good friend of Schubert.

Despite the few selections which bear its name, the impromptu remains a beloved staple of the piano recital repertoire. It’s no wonder, then, that recitals and albums continue to bring these musical gems to a public who never tires of their sparkle and originality.

The latest of these, Steinway & Sons has released the first volume in a series of the complete Impromptus of Schubert featuring the Puerto Rican pianist, Gerardo Teissonnière. The pianist brings an impressive lineage to his performances, having studied with disciples of Artur Schnabel and Alfred Cortot. He has given many world premieres of works by leading contemporary composers and serves on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music.

This is a fine recording which offers listeners a clean, crisp rendering of eight of Schubert’s finest movements for piano. The pianist avoids romantic excess, but neither does he succumb to stony intellectualism. The impromptu, after all, is supposed to have the free-spirited nature of improvisation. Here is an artist who has mastered the middle path, and it is indeed golden. He plays the four Impromptus of D 899 with energy and aplomb. There is a touch of Schubertian wistfulness in the Lied-like third Impromptu in G-Flat major, though I thought the fourth selection, in A-Flat major, would have benefitted by just a hint more of that thread of yearning woven throughout the composer’s body of work. Sometimes this yearning is manifested in rubato, or the hesitant way one note or chord can quietly slip into a silence or the next phrase.

The D 935 collection is more robust, from the Impromptu with the Wanderer Fantasy theme, a gentle but never saccharine “Andante and Variations”, and an “Allegro scherzando” fresh as a waterfall to complete the set. The eight tracks in this album could easily be heard as two piano sonatas, with a level of control that implies strength rather than rigidity. These are the only Impromptus published in Schubert’s lifetime, and we can be reasonably certain that the versions passed along to us today represent the composer’s final choices. Teissonnière’s musical decisions are similarly well thought out and reflect a heritage communicated not only by teachers, but by the artist’s inherent instinct for what is right. We can listen appreciatively and look forward to the next release in this series with cheerful anticipation.


The last time we encountered the American pianist Gerardo Teissonniére, it was in his recording debut for Steinway & Sons (you can read our review here). Teissonniére, who was born in Puerto Rico and now resides in Cleveland, where he has long served on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music, certainly made a bold move in leading out with such monumental repertoire. However, he delivered a memorable performance that the label captured in audiophile-worthy sound. When I saw what Teissonniére had chosen to record for his next release, I could hardly contain my excitement, because Schubert’s piano music is right up there in the same exalted atmosphere as Beethoven’s. Once again, Teissonniére is clearly showcasing his desire to record music of the very highest quality.

As the American composer Evan Fein so aptly describes this music, “the elements of dance, song and storytelling permeate the entire oeuvre of the early Romantic Austrian composer Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828). They are combined and uniquely represented in each of Schubert’s eight individual yet intrinsically connected works for the piano known as the Impromptus, D 899 and D 935, two sets of four pieces each written in the last year and a half of the composer’s short life.” Teissonniére artfully projects that feeling of dance, song, and story as he weaves his way through these fascinating pieces. He plays with a sense of confidence, with a big tone – not in a loud, brash way; rather, in a confident, assured way. As it was in the Beethoven release, his Steinway is captured in sound of lifelike clarity and power (it was engineered by Daniel Shores at Sono Luminus Studios – they do great work there). Great music, great music, great sound – Great Caesar’s ghost, it’s a good one!

-- Classical Candor

Recordings of Schubert's mature piano works seem to be coming thick and fast as their bicentennials approach. This is especially enjoyable in the case of the Impromptus, for the multiple recordings reveal the depth of these pieces and the variety of ways in which they may be approached. The innovations of the Impromptus held implications for the entire Romantic era, and pianists may look backward or forward in playing them. There have been precise historical-instrument readings that convey the vast expansion in the capabilities of the piano that are inherent in Schubert's works, like those of Beethoven, and then there are readings that treat Schubert as a full-blown Romantic. Among the most fervently devoted to that idea is pianist Gerardo Teissonnière, the latest addition to the Steinway & Sons stable. The Impromptus are not especially virtuosic, but in Teissonnière's hands, they are positively Lisztian, with muscular treatments of the many important left-hand passages. Sample the way he treats the imposing opening material of the Impromptu in F minor, Op. 142, No. 1, and hear how the whole piece grows out of the counterpoint at the beginning. The engineers of the Sono Luminus studio capture Teissonnière's mighty Steinway D in full color, and the end result is a Schubert recording that, to a rare degree, puts the listener in the audience for a Schubert performance by Liszt or one of the other great 19th century virtuosi.

-- AllMusic Guide

Impromptu means “improvised,” a genre popular in 19th-century salons. It seems to be easily dashed off in one sitting although it’s hard to believe this, given their melodic richness, level of invention and perfection of form. Schubert’s eight pieces are part of the curriculum for any aspiring piano student about grade eight and up and I tried my hand on at least three of them. My greatest accomplishment was Op.90 No.4 in A-flat Major, with those gorgeous cascades rippling down like water with a wonderful melody emerging in the left hand and a passionate Trio I loved playing. But I must admit that the difference between amateur and professional pianists being immeasurable (Somerset Maugham), so this new issue of The Complete Impromptus, all eight of them, under two opus numbers (90 & 142) by a pianist critics regard as an artist of “extraordinary musicianship and rare sensibility,” Puerto Rican-born American Gerardo Teissonnière, is most welcome. In fact, the pianist is having a remarkable career on two continents, recipient of many awards; this recording is his second one on the prestigious Steinway & Sons label.

Some of my favourites are the popular, very impressive No.2 Op.90 in E-flat Major, perpetuum mobile-like, light hearted and fast with an exquisite contrasting Impromptu. No.3, Op.90 in G-flat Major (with 6 flats) is relaxed and introspective with a harp-like mid-register in the right hand that reminds me of Schubert›s ever-present obsession with water and a fearsome undercurrent in the left hand bass.

I loved the most the ambitious Impromptu No.1 Op.90 in C Minor, with its notable key change into major in the Trio that›s absolute heaven, like a dreamy dialogue of questions and answers. No.3 in B-flat Major Op.142 is a set of lovely variations on a simple theme from Rosamunde where the level of invention is amazing. The final piece is No.4 Op.142 in F Minor, a wild rondo that sums up this set that gave me a lot of enjoyment in these bleak winter days.

-- The Whole Note Read less