LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Piano Sonata in F, Op. 57 (Appassionata); Piano Sonata in A flat, Op. 110
PERFORMER: Frank Braley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901750
This new recording confirms the young French player Frank Braley as one of the most interesting and intelligent pianists of his generation. Using a mellow-sounding Steinway of 1882 – an interesting compromise between a period instrument and a modern concert grand – he conjures up some admirably warm sonorities. Op. 110 is particularly impressive, with a rapt account of the recitative prefacing the third movement, and a concluding fugue that begins very slowly and quietly, without breaking the tragic atmosphere of the aria that precedes it. It’s true that the regathering of strength Beethoven intended this inverted fugue to convey is actually written into the music’s accelerating rhythm, thereby obviating the need to hold back the tempo at the start; but Braley’s approach is certainly effective.
Braley plays the finale of the Moonlight with admirable clarity
and drama, but the mystery of the opening movement is rather disrupted by a heavy accent on the very first bass note, and by a big crescendo at the mid-point of the piece. Beethoven actually wanted the whole movement to be played extremely delicately, and it’s one that ought to unfold in a single, sustained mood. Braley’s concern for clarity occasionally robs the Appassionata of mystery, too, but the performance as a whole has an admirable sweep to it. Anyone wanting these three sonatas on a single disc will find much to enjoy here, though there’s no shortage of competition. Myra Hess remains unforgettable in Op. 110, and Richard Goode’s complete cycle offers fine performances of all three sonatas. Misha Donat