Beethoven: Piano Sonata in E, Op. 109; Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 110; Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Hyperion Helios
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E, Op. 109; Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 110; Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 111
PERFORMER: William Kinderman (piano)
These accounts of Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas contain some memorable moments. Two of them come in Op. 110: I have not heard a more convincing realisation of the notoriously awkward modulation in bars 77-8 (4:13) of the first movement than the fully engaged one Kinderman offers, and I am moved by the intimacy he achieves on the buoyant repeated notes with rapid finger changes in the introduction of the slow movement. Kinderman is evidently a thoughtful musician whose ideas about this great music are worth pondering (although I heartily dislike his preference for monumentality over volatility in the Prestissimo movement from Op. 109), but he doesn’t quite create a satisfying context from which to promote them. The notes are all in place, but the colour of his playing is monochromatic and his pianistic polish is a small but crucial cut below the best of the extensive competition – symptomatic passages include clunky, beat-bound phrasing in the theme of the Op. 109 variations, sloppy, indifferent voicing at the end of that movement and suspect legato in the scherzo of Op. 110. These flaws may be exacerbated by the recorded sound, which, though clear, features close microphone placement (in Opp. 109 and 110, at any rate) that precludes much atmosphere or illusion. Richard Goode is among numerous pianists who create a more satisfying total impression than Kinderman in these works, although Goode overlooks another of Kinderman’s effective insights: namely, that the second movement of Op. 111 should ideally emerge from the residual resonance of the first. David Breckbill