Press: Schubert / Mozart                                

01/06/2008

New York Times

French duo pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque were known for their preference for 20th-century works and for a powerhouse performance style that often left audiences divided: listeners found them either harshly aggressive or just what the doctor ordered. More recently they have moved to Rome, built a recording studio and started their own record label, which has issued their own recordings and a few avant-garde pop discs. They have also considerably retooled their sound and interpretive approach, or at least rebalanced them. In this new collection of Schubert and Mozart works, their playing is as vital as ever, but the bright glare that was once a signature of their sound has given way to greater subtlety, even delicacy. Schubert’s Fantasy in F minor (D. 940) begins in a bittersweet whisper, and even in its most agitated sections the Labèques temper their energy with elegance and polish. In Schubert’s Andantino Varié in B minor (D. 823) they match their timbres and gestures so exactly that they sound like a single pianist. But the heart of this recording is the Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D (K. 448), particularly its Andante. [...] brisk tempo and crisp articulation add an enlivening physicality and playfulness as a counterweight to the movement’s darkly ruminative passages. And given the ebullience of the work’s finale, that seems about right.

Allan Kozinn