If you’re pressed for time, the third movement is shorter than the rest. It is excited, a bit whimsical, and certainly not lacking in depth. The sheer amount of music in the first movement alone has me overwhelmed. That starts reverent, soft but full, and then goes on the harmonic journey to end all journeys – you can read about that more here. It feels like a landscape is being painted in front of you; in order to display a breadth of vision, it seems one’s own vision must be even broader.
The second movement contains an incredible amount of drama. It builds slowly and softly to powerful heights, and Brendel’s dynamics, while always good, feel exceptionally sharp here for this listener. It’s not too hard to take in every note and get a sense of what it is doing in the piece, but that doesn’t mean the piece is simple. It probably means a virtuosic piece of piano literature is being played at an amazing level. The theme opening the fourth movement sounds playful, but actually is part of scheme meant to explore a variety of wondrous colors. It ends the entirety of the piece grandly and triumphantly. With Schubert, I’m always wondering what it means to write exceptionally mature works of music. He seems to force the issue in a way few other composers do.