This is not my first encounter with Koroliov; I raved about his Schubert (the B♭ Sonata, D 960, and the Moments musicaux, D 780) in a 1995 volume of Fanfare (19:4), citing his “self-effacing musicianship and sensitivity.” Of course, there are two pianists to consider here, and it is impossible to distinguish the primo from the secundo without knowing which of them is playing which part—nor should one wish to! As one expects with any duo, the playing of the partners is blended, and with this husband-and-wife pair, the unity and smoothness of execution is faultless. A significant aid is the piano, which is uniform in sonority from bottom to top.
The two pianists offer a technically strong and consistently sensitive reading of the Fantasy, slipping convincingly from the exquisite melancholy of the opening section through the bright contrasting sections that follow, and finally back to the music of the opening. The "Grand Duo" is equally convincing in its contrasts between tumultuous drama and ineffable sweetness in the lengthy first movement. Koroliov and Hadžigeorgieva play brilliantly throughout, ever alert to the subtleties of Schubert’s affective changes in harmony and mood, and their performance leaves a powerful impression.
Inevitably one is brought back to the duo of Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen, who recorded the complete Schubert four-hand repertoire on Sony in the 1990s in four volumes. Theirs was playing of rare perfection, enhanced by their choice of piano, the oversized Fazioli grand. (Their CDs are still available through various sellers on Amazon.) But I strongly recommend the Koroliov duo, especially to have these two great examples of Schubert’s art on one CD.