Beethoven

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Edelweiss Emission
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10/1; No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique); No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight)
PERFORMER: Daniel Levy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EDEM 3380

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The first thing one registers in Daniel Levy’s Beethoven is its exceptional clarity of articulation. The upward flight of Sonata No. 5’s opening statement comes smart as a whip, with the answering statement bringing warm sweetness. And in the first movement’s development section he finds a new touch to match the new key, suggesting exploration of an unfamiliar realm. The Adagio molto theme initially seems too molto – does it have to be so pedantically spelt-out, one wonders – but by the end he’s made his point: the slow movements of Beethoven’s early sonatas are free-standing works of massive power, and this one quintessentially so. The prestissimo Finale comes like a release of coiled energy, with devilish humour at the abrupt close.

Levy’s Pathétique begins with dark mysteriousness before settling into a gentle jog for an Allegro cantabile which does indeed sing; he extracts rapt drama from the Adagio, and youthful eagerness from the Rondo. Other pianists have discovered more poetry in the opening movement of the Moonlight, but with an unusually grave Allegretto and a final Presto which is poised rather than hurtling, he justifies yet another recording of these much-recorded works.

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The other thing that strikes you about Levy’s playing is its lack of vanity, and although his account of Scriabin’s Op. 11 Preludes can’t match the delicately calibrated sound of Mikhail Pletnev’s on Virgin, he does full justice to the varied beauty of these unassuming little tone-poems. He finds the right touch for the Chopinesque fifth and sixth Preludes, and for the Brahmsian 10th and 11th; where full-dress virtuosity is required (19 and 20) he provides it effortlessly, as he does in the Op. 8 Etudes. The studies in octaves (No. 5) and sixths (No. 6) bowl agreeably along, and when Scriabin gets the hands obeying contradictory time-signatures (2 and 4) the effect is very pleasing. The two encore favourites – the Etude in C Minor Op. 2 No 1, and the Etude in D sharp minor Op. 8 no 12 – are played, as they should be, heart on sleeve. Michael Church