Beethoven: Piano Sonata in B flat, Op. 106 (Hammerklavier); Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 110

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: MusicMasters
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B flat, Op. 106 (Hammerklavier); Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 110
PERFORMER: Charles Rosen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 67183-2
Charles Rosen, a pianist who combines instrumental expertise with a scholar’s erudition and thoroughness, makes an ideal interpreter for Beethoven’s late sonatas. There are no loose ends in these performances; the argument is always thorough, profound and convincing. In Op. 110 he achieves an excellent balance between introversion and a finely-honed sensitivity of expression. An Adagio section that at first seems over-agitated is balanced to perfection by the profound serenity of the fugue. Rosen’s clarity is exemplary; every detail of counterpoint is audible, yet without any of the overall shape being sacrificed. The Hammerklavier is a sonata which can defeat even those who think they know it intimately. Instead of resorting to brawn, adrenalin and craziness, as some interpreters do, Rosen applies an intelligence and unity of conception which creates a deeply satisfying interpretation.

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The sound quality, however, lets the disc down. The ambience feels dry and the lower register of the piano is far more resonant than the woody-sounding upper treble. Since Beethoven frequently requires the extremes of register to be played together, this is a particularly unfortunate problem. Jessica Duchen