Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op. 7, Op. 49/1 & Op. 101; Bagatelles, Op. 126; Piano Trio, Op. 70/1 (Ghost)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Op. 7, Op. 49/1 & Op. 101; Bagatelles, Op. 126; Piano Trio, Op. 70/1 (Ghost)
PERFORMER: Glenn Gould (piano), Alexander Schneider (violin), Zara Nelsova (cello)
Glenn Gould’s idiosyncratic view (quoted in the booklet notes) that ‘the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalised, public manifestations’ aptly introduces this Beethoven programme. These live CBC radio broadcasts (which date from the early Fifties) may sound rather raw, but the fire in Gould’s readings makes up for any deficiencies in the recorded sound.


Bold gestural characterisation vividly focuses the motivic concentration of the Op. 126 Bagatelles. In the A major Sonata, Op. 101, pellucid tonal clarity (in the opening Allegretto), strongly profiled rhythmic drive (in the ‘alla marcia’), noble poise (in the Adagio) and contrapuntal clarity (in the fugue) generate extraordinary dramatic power. Likewise, the slow movement of Op. 7 has a compulsive intensity, and Gould’s revelatory linear and harmonic detail in the little G minor Sonata, Op. 49/1, penetrates its organic structure to the core.


The B flat Allegretto, WoO 39, and the Ghost Trio amply demonstrate Gould’s sensitive and responsive chamber playing. The ensemble – with Alexander Schneider (violin) and Zara Nelsova (cello) – is excellently matched in both pieces. With all three musicians displaying a common interpretative purpose, the listener is induced to share fully in the musical experience. Nicholas Rast