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elisabeth leonskaja, city halls, glasgow

A week ago the American pianist Richard Goode played Beethoven's last three sonatas in recital at City Halls.

On Sunday, Glasgow's Piano series drew to a close with an unforgettable account of Schubert's equivalent last three from the Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja. While the term veteran is too often used as a euphemism for someone who's simply been around a while, here it applies to Leonskaja's profound understanding of these works. From the steely tumult of D958 to the stately warmth of D960, her handling of late Schubert was masterful.

Which isn't to say there weren't hiccups; there were. But any technical blemishes paled in comparison with the broader wisdom of Leonskaja's message. She favours well-proportioned musical structures above the nitty-gritty of detail, and in her hands the strategy works. The outer movements of D958 and 959 were marked by brusque contrasts and uncompromising directness. The slow movements brought gently insistent pedal notes, warmly sung countermelodies and chordal passages that were perfectly balanced.

This was plain-speaking Schubert, turbulent but accepting. For the great B-flat Major Sonata, D960, Leonskaja turned her focus inwards. She made the opening phrase a gesture of leisurely nostalgia, and each time the theme returned it felt as familiar and deep-rooted as a folk song. The second subject was tender and rueful, the second movement utterly heart-rending. Playing the three sonatas in one go is a hefty ask but she had energy for an encore: Schubert's Impromptu in G-flat Major, effortlessly lyrical. Anyone who's had a shot at these pieces will know how much easier it is to say than play a simple line beautifully. Leonskaja gets it every time.

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