Both on the concert platform and in the recording studio, pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar is a completist. Following complete cycles of piano sonatas by Beethoven and Mozart, he presents 12 Great Piano Sonatas by Franz Schubert – the composer’s 11 finished sonatas and the seminal fragment D840. Pienaar relishes in these revelatory works, their extraordinarily detailed possibilities of characterisation, their call for immense energy and abandon, and navigating the vast dreamscapes that unfold in the course of this six-hour musical journey. “dazzling precision and clarity ... he communicates an individual and convincing vision for each piece, enough for every one of them to give delight. Brilliant.” (Gramophone, Editor’s Choice on The Long 17th Century) “dizzying virtuosity ... fresh, spontaneous, original readings that shed new light on the keyboard player’s Bible” (BBC Music Magazine on J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier)
These readings for me capture the spirit of Schubert’s piano style. It is only when you set Pienaar next to the established greats that he lacks something in presence and imagination, but only by a small degree. His playing is at once natural and sympathetic, and blessedly free of artifice. It is also necessary to qualify my generalization that Pienaar’s approach is lively and alert. He recognizes the greater ambition and amplitude of the opus posthumous sonatas and changes his approach accordingly.