Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven Sonates

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Beethoven Sonates

Article excerpt

"Beethoven Sonates": in C-sharp Minor, Opus 27, no. 2 ("Moonlight"); in F Minor, Opus 57 ("Appassionato"); in A-flat Major, Opus 1 10. Frank Braley, piano. Harmonia Mundi 901750. DDD. 59'04''. © 2001. $16.98.

The young French pianist Frank Braley, born in 1970, made a spectacular entry into the professional music world by winning the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels when he was just twenty-two; what made the event particularly amazing was that he had never played in any competitions previously. Since then he has embarked on a busy international concert career and has recorded music of Schubert and Strauss in addition to the present disk. For this recording, Braley plays an 1882 Steinway - a rather peculiar choice that goes unexplained in the accompanying notes. An 1882 piano is well past Beethoven's time, so it hardly classifies as an "authentic" period instrument. If it was an astonishingly beautiful instrument, his choice would be justified - but its sound rings in the manner of an old instrument; it is somewhat metallic and thin on top, somewhat muddy in the bass.

What is most striking about Braley's playing is the strong personality he projects, even in a studio recording, where one rarely senses the "presence" of the player, as one does in a live performance. The first movement of the "Moonlight" Sonata is very effective because of its steady, calm motion; there is a good deal of dynamic contrast, with a rise to a strong forte at the peak of the movement. In tempo and style, it is similar to Pires's reading, but her lighter touch produces a more ethereal and gossamer atmosphere. The finale is brilliant, and Braley's vitality is almost palpable.

The element of bravura permeates the "Appassionata" Sonata too. …

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