Beethoven

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano sonatas, Vol. 5: No. 2 in A, Op. 2/2; No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10/ 1; No. 24 in F sharp, Op. 78; No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68086

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Here is a stimulatingly well-contrasted programme. Each sonata benefits from Angela Hewitt’s beautifully clean-cut pianistic command, in which every score marking is placed within a precisely articulated interpretative overview. The occasional pile-driver sforzando, notably in Op. 2 No. 2, should be blamed on recording resonance rather than performer overkill. Slow-movement timings may look surprisingly spacious on paper – her Op. 10 No. 1 Adagio slower than Claudio Arrau’s – but nothing drags: everything adds up.

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In each sonata, however, I soon longed for something more than coolly lucid expertise: for more Beethovenian impetuosity, expressive warmth, emotional engagement. In Op. 2 No. 2 it was to Stephen Kovacevich, so alive to the first movement’s punchy vivacity, and Murray Perahia, his Largo appassionato so full of unforced tenderness, that I turned for those missing ‘extra dimensions’. Likewise to Artur Schnabel’s ancient Op. 10 No. 1, with its unique con brio dash and zest, and Solomon’s incomparably profound 1956 Op. 110. The pick of these Hyperion performances is probably Op. 78, finely poised and flowing, but even here the ‘and yet’ factor soon intrudes. Max Loppert