WORKS: Schumann: Abegg Variations, Op. 1; Grieg: Four Pieces, Op. 1; Brahms: Piano Sonata, Op. 1; Berg: Piano Sonata, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Alasdair Beatson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 086
This disc contains the Op. 1s by four major composers, an interesting idea. It is also the debut disc of the young Scotch pianist Alasdair Beatson, playing on a luscious and mellow instrument. The Schumann and the Berg works are familiar and fine, even if the latter strikes one as a prolonged Tristan-esque improvisation which doesn’t really go anywhere.
The four Grieg pieces are very minor indeed, the work of a fine composer who is discovering his own voice – but not yet – by seeing how well he can imitate other people’s. Ideal material for a quiz. The Brahms Op. 1 Sonata is a gargantuan galumphing thing.
In the 1980s Sviatoslav Richter took an unaccountable fancy to it and recorded it for four commercial labels, and showed how a supreme performer can effect a miracle. That doesn’t mean that no one else should try it, but it does mean that their efforts are likely to be dwarfed by that series of performances. Beatson can play all the notes, but he can’t make the work sound other than pretentious, often almost comic in its inept attempts to hang together. The bloom on the recording at least makes it pleasant to hear bar by bar. Michael Tanner