Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Jed Distler Listens to a Selection of Recent Additions to the Beethoven Piano Discography from Pianists You May Not Have Encountered

Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Jed Distler Listens to a Selection of Recent Additions to the Beethoven Piano Discography from Pianists You May Not Have Encountered

Article excerpt

For all the CD industry's ups and downs, the Beethoven sonata business continues to boom, with new wares from emerging and established contenders. Paavali Jumppanen grabs your attention throughout the three Op 2 Sonatas with impressive lightness and point to the F minor's outer movements, the A major's Allegro vivace and the C major's unusually brisk Scherzo, although he cannot resist just a little hint of a swan dive in the A major Rondo's main theme. Op 101 stands out for the March movement and the concluding fugue's pinpoint control and finely honed balances. In this context, it's surprising to encounter a relatively expansive and rhetorical Hammerklavier first movement, replete with big ritards and the occasional added bass octave. Similar expressive gestures soften the surprising impact of the Scherzo's momentary shift from B flat major to B minor, while the cumulative effect of the fugal finale's terse trajectory is shattered by Jumppanen's Mengelbergian protraction of the concluding chords.

I find 25-year-old Alexej Gorlatch's Oehms debut more compelling. He plays up the imposing dynamic contrasts in the Pathetique Sonata's first movement and obtains a rare combination of crisp clarity and sonorous heft in the difficult-to-sustain left-hand broken octaves. Although the Adagio's pulse fluctuations sound more generic than purposeful and sometimes throw important rhythmic details off kilter, the poised and well-articulated Rondo compensates. Gorlatch understates the Moonlight's Adagio sostenuto's dynamics, unfolding the music at a brisk and flexible tempo that directly corresponds to his lilting, intelligently voiced Allegretto. The Presto agitato rushes out of the gate, only to grow slower and weightier as it progresses. Some listeners may perceive a studied and sectionalised quality to Gorlatch's seemingly pre-planned expressive devices and intricate shadings of nuance throughout the Tempest Sonata, yet why quibble over such distinctive, gorgeously reproduced pianism?

Sona Shaboyan programmes the Tempest alongside two obscure sonatas published by the Zurich-based Hans Georg Nageli (1773-1836) that were all part of a series devoted to outstanding contemporary composers of that era. Her interpretation is less compulsively detailed than Gorlatch's, yet arguably more spontaneous and forward-moving; notice the urgency in the finale's cross-rhythmic accents, the pronounced cantabile in the central movement and stronger adherence to the composer's controversial long first-movement pedal markings. …

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