Beethoven: Piano Sonata Nos. 21 in C, Op. 53 (Waldstein); Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, 0p. 57 (Appassionata); Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Piano Sonata Nos. 21 in C, Op. 53 (Waldstein); Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, 0p. 57 (Appassionata); Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90
PERFORMER: Barry Douglas (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61280 2 DDD
Since winning the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition in 1986, Barry Douglas has established himself as one of Britain’s heavyweights in the Classical and Romantic repertoire. He’s a strong player and a serious artist whose style is not far distant from those other Moscow laureates, John Lill and Peter Donohoe. Here he plays three sonatas from Beethoven’s middle period. The popular Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas represent Beethoven in a heroic frame of mind, building quasi-symphonic forms and exploring the heights and depths of expression. The two-movement sonata Op. 90 is more moderate in its expressive range, but no less characteristic of its composer in its gruff good humour and lyrical charm. Douglas is bracing in the humorous bits but unnecessarily reticent when the music is lyrical. He also sounds inhibited in the two grander sonatas; while everything is perfectly thought out and faithful to the score, there’s little sense of the sheer physical thrill of playing this splendidly passionate music, and the effect is of well-groomed caution. Perhaps what Douglas needed was the excitement of an audience. The recording sounds close and a bit muffled when the music is soft, then backs away when it is loud. Adrian Jack

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