Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: 'Piano Sonatas, Vol 7'

Magazine article Gramophone

Beethoven: 'Piano Sonatas, Vol 7'

Article excerpt

Beethoven 'Piano Sonatas, Vol 7' Piano Sonatas--No 2, Op 2 No 2; No 17, 'Tempest', Op 31 No 2; No 20, Op 49 No 2; No 30, Op 109 Jonathan Biss pf Meyer Media (F) MM18037 (69' * DDD)

We reach the seventh volume of Jonathan Biss's thought-provoking Beethoven sonata cycle. The pieces on this disc seem to suit him more naturally than Vol 6 (6/17), which was dominated by the Hammerklavier.

A highlight is the outwardly simple Op 49 No 2, beloved of piano students everywhere, to which Biss gives as much consideration as any of the more overtly demanding works. The first movement combines Mozartian grace with a bubbling excitement and he subtly varies pedalling and touch in the exposition repeat. Alongside him, Richard Goode sounds a tad staid. In the minuet second movement, Biss is again alive to every detail, to beguiling effect.

He launches the disc with another high-spirited work, Op 2 No 2. Biss's booklet notes are, as ever, thoughtful and full of insight, and his description of this sonata's slow movement as 'not a dialogue with the universe, but a thanksgiving' is fully borne out by his persuasive interpretation. However, it is in the other movements that doubts creep in, the opening Allegro lacking the quiet mischief of Bavouzet or the anarchic high jinks of Brendel. Biss's playing is unfailingly honed--just sample the Scherzo. But then turn to Bavouzet, who begins almost inaudibly and is unrivalled in sheer responsiveness. In the finale Biss emphasises the grazioso marking but again I prefer the greater playfulness of Bavouzet and Brendel. …

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