Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No 29

Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No 29

Article excerpt

Beethoven [G]

Piano Sonata No 29, 'Hammerklavier', Op 106.

Bagatelles, Op 126

Nelson Goerner pf

Alpha (F) ALPHA239 (63' * DDD)

Beethoven

Piano Sonatas--No 27, Op 90; No 28, Op 101; No 29, 'Hammerklavier', Op 106

Steven Osborne pf

What a pleasure to report the near-simultaneous release of two magnificent new Hammerklaviers by a pair of internationally recognised artists, Nelson Goerner and Steven Osborne. Both are now in their mid-40s, with careers in full blossom. Their previous distinguished discographies notwithstanding, these discs seem to signal peak periods of their musical and pianistic powers.

Goerner's Hammerklavier is about flight, variety of shapes, sounds, ideas and precision of communication. Osborne's is about the big picture, objectivity and a powerful kinaesthesia that could propel rockets into space. These readings are seasoned and expert, yet so distinctly individual that choosing between them will depend on what you listen for in Beethoven.

The opening of Osborne's Hammerklavier bursts with energy and excitement. If the major structural signposts are amply observed, the race from vista to vista takes on an urgency that, in the sheer joy of velocity, can clip phrases. The justification for this, if one were needed beyond the sheer thrill of it, is Beethoven's extravagant metronome indication: minim=138, or, in other words, insanely fast. In the Scherzo, marked Vivace assai (extremely lively), one can only marvel at the subtlety of Osborne's nerve-muscle responses. They allow him such an astonishing degree of rhythmic accuracy achieved with the utmost delicacy of touch. Following these two hyperactive movements, arrival in the hallowed precincts of the Adagio creates a powerful if slightly disorientating impression. Beethoven's polyphony is finely realised, each chord vying with its successor for beauty of voicing in a flow that is seamless and serene. The finale is a febrile paroxysm that synergises the impetus of the first two movements, seen through a refracting prism of fugal logic and organ-like sonorities. The result is a virtuoso apotheosis as brilliant as molten iron from a blast furnace. …

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