Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op. 10/1-3

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Op. 10/1-3
PERFORMER: Louis Lortie (piano)
All the vitality and brooding soulfulness of the young Beethoven’s music are packed into these sonatas from his twenties. The first of them introduces the smouldering, sometimes raging character that, for him, goes with C minor – as in the Third Piano Concerto and the Fifth Symphony – while the last reaches out to symphonic scope, taking in a slow movement of high, operatic emotion. But it’s the unstoppable energy that predominates. This is certainly the effect of Lortie’s playing, which relishes the pace and drive to the full, heading unfailingly for the dynamic peaks and bringing the textures fully to life with finely judged accents and a buoyant sense of rhythm. Best of all is the lighter F major sonata. Lortie presents the simple two-chord idea that propels its opening movement with exactly the quizzical diversity of attack that allows Beethoven’s wit and good humour to flourish. In the shadowy central Allegretto he makes you hear qualities that Brahms responded to. The C minor develops a swinging momentum that is enlivened by a generous lyrical sense – nothing rigid about the tempo, and if anything rubato is a bit forced, though the end of the Adagio sings tenderly. The high point of the D major sonata is its daringly slow Largo, heavy but justly so, sustaining the tempo with weight of sound. Sometimes the instrument clatters in the resonant acoustic, but the playing is made for big spaces. If Melvyn Tan’s fortepiano performances are not for you, this will provide a welcome opposite view. Robert Maycock