Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor Op. 2/1; Piano Sonata No. 2 in A Op. 2/2; Piano Sonata No. 3 in C Op. 2/3

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor Op. 2/1; Piano Sonata No. 2 in A Op. 2/2; Piano Sonata No. 3 in C Op. 2/3
PERFORMER: Louis Lortie (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9212 DDD
According to Beethoven’s friend Ferdinand Ries, Haydn wanted the words ‘Pupil of Haydn’ engraved on all the young composer’s early works. Beethoven refused, on the grounds that he had never learned anything from his former teacher, but he did dedicate his first three piano sonatas to him. Early works they may be, but they are certainly not for the faint-hearted. The outer movements of the second and third sonatas, in particular, are unabashedly virtuoso pieces (the first movement of No. 3 even has a concerto-like cadenza) which contain some notoriously tricky passages. The Canadian pianist Louis Lortie negotiates them all with apparent ease, and – more to the point – shapes each with unerring musicality.

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Lortie takes both repeats in the outer movements of the F minor first sonata, and manages to inject additional intensity into the music the second time through. I could have wished, perhaps, for a chink of light between the sighing descending phrases the opening theme of the slow movement of this work; and it is a pity that the first, explosive, fortissimo of the C major Sonata No. 3 is pre-empted (despite their sf markings, the prevailing dynamic of the opening bars ought to remain piano). These are, however, immensely enjoyable performances, and warmly recommended. Misha Donat