SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0188
Midlands Classical Music Making, January 17th 2019 (www.midlandsmusicreviews.com)
Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy in C major has received some heavy-handed “virtuoso” performances with even great pianists inclined to pull tempi about to make an interpretative point. McCawley’s playing reveals sensitive phrasing, rhythmic precision and no excessive keyboard rhetoric. The opening movement is crisp and energetic, a true Allegro making Pollini’s slower tempo on his otherwise magisterial recording (DG) sound a little staid. The work is a landmark of stormy musical romanticism but McCawley doesn’t overlook its lyricism, with a beautifully expressive Adagio. Liszt’s five arrangements of Schubert lieder put virtuosity in the service of the music. In McCawley’s hands the growing religious ecstasy of Die junge Nonne and the aching melancholy of Du bist die Ruh are palpable. The Drei Klavierstücke are like musical versions of Hoffmann’s magical tales – disturbing, dream-like and disorientating with McCawley capturing their kaleidoscopic moods. His performances are enhanced by an outstandingly clear and faithful recording. *****
BBC Music Magazine, January 2019
Leon McCawley’s ingeniously-planned Schubert programme sees the Wanderer Fantasy preceded by a group of Liszt’s song transcriptions culminating in ‘Der Wanderer’. McCawley gives a fine account of the Wanderer Fantasy, with an atmospheric account of its brooding slow movement, and a scherzo that’s as light on its toes as it ought to be…McCawley’s is a virtuoso performance and carried off with admirable aplomb. He’s very good in the Liszt arrangements, too, handing the apotheosis of ‘Die junge Nonne’ superbly, and not holding back on the sometimes overblown climaxes in the remaining songs. He handles the tricky tempo relationships between the various sections [of Three Piano Pieces D946] very successfully.
This pianist’s intelligent and sensitive playing affords a good deal of listening pleasure.
Performance **** Recording ****
International Piano, January/February 2019
Perhaps because of its prosaic title (Three Piano Pieces), Schubert’s D946 remains under-recorded and performed for its stature…yet these are substantial and magnificent pieces. McCawley gives an impetuous, febrile account of the first- tormented, even; plus, he has the intelligence to think in the long lines these works demand. Of the song selection of five Lieder arranged by Liszt, which form a central panel to the recital, Du bist die Ruh is most remarkable for its interior expression. As to the Wanderer Fantasy, it is full of intelligent observation…
An ambitious Schubert disc, creditably done. ****
Classical Ear, 28th November 2018
Leon McCawley’s urgent performances of the three late Schubert Klavierstücke remind me of a long-held ambition to recommend the pieces as interludes at pivotal points in Schubert’s Winterreise song-cycle. They fit the mood to a T, the first especially, running breathless in realms of incipient tragedy. McCawley knows how to gauge mood and colour, especially in the Adagio section of the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy, while the fugato opening of the finale – which so often degenerates into percussive clatter – here sounds just what it is, a decisively conclusive allegro. This is strong Schubert playing, the sort we might have had from Backhaus or Serkin. And there are the Liszt transcriptions, all of them well played, Du bist die Ruh drawing to a noble climax, Die junge Nonne suitably wind tossed, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, as lyrical as Schubert’s original, Sei mir gegrüsst warmly voiced and Der Wanderer, another sympathetic interpretation, sensibly placed directly before the Fantasy. Excellent sound, too, and superb booklet-notes from Bryce Morrison. ****