Beethoven: Piano Sonata in B flat, Op. 22; Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 26; Piano Sonata in C, Op. 53 (Waldstein)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B flat, Op. 22; Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 26; Piano Sonata in C, Op. 53 (Waldstein)
PERFORMER: Maurizio Pollini (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 435 472-2
There are two good reasons for buying this disc. One is that Pollini’s playing, captured at a public recital in Vienna, is quite superb, grasping and conveying almost every facet of Beethoven’s immensely complex character with an extraordinary, white-hot immediacy (how anyone can maintain the claim that he is cold and efficient in the face of evidence like this is beyond my understanding). The other is that it marks the start of a new series of CD-ROMs created in collaboration with the music publishers Schott (though the disc is playable on any conventional CD player). To take full advantage of this feast, however, you’ll need an IBM or IBM-compatible PC (486 or above) with 8MB RAM, Windows 3.x or Windows 95, a CD-ROM drive, a sound card and a graphically enhanced printer. Thus armed, you can follow the on-screen score (a notes-only affair enabling the user to edit it again and again, adding slurs, dynamics, embellishments) and print it up in any format to a publisher’s standard. Also provided in the software are analyses of the sonatas, complete with a generous glossary, illustrated accounts of Beethoven’s life and times, and an illustrated mini-biography of Pollini himself. But before doing any of this, you should just listen, undistracted (and with playing of this spontaneous intensity even a score is distracting). You may feel that you’ve come into contact with Beethoven himself. Jeremy Siepmann