Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op. 111 in C minor; Bagatelles Op.126; Bagatelle in A minor (Für Elise); Rondo capriccio in G

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Piano Sonata Op. 111 in C minor; Bagatelles Op.126; Bagatelle in A minor (Für Elise); Rondo capriccio in G
PERFORMER: Anatol Ugorski (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 435 881-2 DDD
The best thing on this disc is the ‘encore’ – Beethoven’s so-called ‘Rage over a lost penny’, which Ugorski tosses off with great panache. If only the rest of the disc had such style. His rendition of ‘Für Elise’, that perfect and unpretentious little ‘album leaf’, is spoiled by over-emphasis and a rather sluggish tempo. Turning to the other pieces we find the same faults writ large. The three Bagatelles marked ‘Andante’ are played at a very slow tempo nearer to ‘Largo’, and within these slow tempi Ugorski indulges in some violent fluctuations. The fourth Bagatelle, marked ‘Presto’, works better, suggesting that Ugorski is only happy when he’s at the extremes, either of slow or fast. Curiously enough, this tendency to exaggerate and underline every nuance actually robs the performances of expressivity (an effect exacerbated by the hard, shiny sound of the recording, particularly in the treble). It also leads to a failure of perspective; in fixing his gaze so rigidly on one aspect of the music, Ugorski loses sight of another. The Arietta of the C minor Sonata certainly needs to be slow, but Ugorski’s performance is so very slow that the variations, particularly the amazing ‘Boogie-woogie’ variation, sound rather leaden and slack. Ivan Hewett

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