Angela Hewett Performs Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 9 in E, Op. 14/1; No. 16 in G, Op. 31/1; Nos 19 & 20 in G, Op. 49; No. 26 in E flat, Op. 81a (Les adieux)
PERFORMER: Angela Hewett (piano)


Angela Hewitt’s latest Beethoven recording comes with her customary intelligence and scrupulous attention to detail. The Les adieux Sonata shows her at her best: the slow introduction’s valedictory horn-calls beautifully handled, the melancholy atmosphere of the slow movement perfectly captured, and a dazzling account of the finale. Also very fine is the first movement of the G major Sonata Op. 31 No. 1, where Hewitt captures the music’s wit and quirkiness admirably. But in the slow movement her trills, starting slowly and gradually accelerating, sound mannered, and the piece doesn’t quite have the lightness and grace it needs.

Beethoven probably never expected to see the two little sonatas Op. 49 in print (they were submitted for publication by his brother), and the second of the pair, unusually for him, has almost no dynamic markings. Hewitt seems reluctant to supply her own, and the opening movement surely needs to sound brighter and more extrovert than she makes it. But her gently trotting minuet (its theme later cropped up in Beethoven’s popular Septet) is a real pleasure, and her subtle ornamentations in the theme’s various returns are a nice touch. There’s a curious detail in the rondo of the first Op. 49 sonata: at the end of its minor-mode middle section Beethoven provides a pre-echo of the main rondo theme with the music still in the minor, but Hewitt plays those bars in the major, pre-empting the actual reprise.


Misha Donat