Beethoven: Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 26; Piano Sonata in E flat, Op. 27/1; Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 49/1; Piano Sonata in G, Op. 49/2

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 26; Piano Sonata in E flat, Op. 27/1; Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 49/1; Piano Sonata in G, Op. 49/2
PERFORMER: Stephen Kovacevich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57131 2
The Beethovenian credentials of a man who launched his career with the Diabelli Variations have never been in doubt. Kovacevich has excelled in the music of many composers but his affinity with Beethoven has always been in a special category all its own. Even in the more lightweight sonatas, there is an intense concentration which leaves no aspect of the music untouched. Texturally crystal clear, yet never ‘clinical’, deeply considered yet spontaneous in effect, the playing has an extraordinary immediacy –to the point where one often loses consciousness of the performer and comes face to face with the composer himself. One of his many strengths is his capacity to illuminate aspects of the music without recourse to any form of didactic exaggeration. He trusts his listeners, and he trusts Beethoven – unlike Glenn Gould, who trusted neither. In fact, card-carrying Gouldians may even find him rather dull. Also unlike Gould, Kovacevich is not obsessed with being original. That he leaves to Beethoven. The sources of apparent spontaneity are many and mysterious, but Kovacevich seems to have mastered them to a fare-thee-well. One is a mastery of rhythm. On the temporal side he plays pretty well exactly what Beethoven writes. On the kinetic side, he boxes the compass, using a very wide dynamic range, chock-a-block with extreme contrasts of loud and soft, and releasing again and again the ‘hidden’ rhythms which give the music much of its incomparable thrust and power. Like all the greatest performances, these make a mockery of ‘comparative’ listening and spike the guns of all critical pigeon-holers. Jeremy Siepmann

Advertisement