Beethoven: Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 10/1; Piano Sonata in F, Op. 10/2; Piano Sonata in D, Op. 10/3; Piano Sonata in D, Op. 28

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 10/1; Piano Sonata in F, Op. 10/2; Piano Sonata in D, Op. 10/3; Piano Sonata in D, Op. 28
PERFORMER: Stephen Kovacevich (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56761 2
It’s a joy at the opening of this CD to hear the beginning of the C minor Sonata taken at a real Allegro molto, and to be immediately aware of the underlying pulse. Kovacevich keeps the rhythm tight, which isn’t to say that he is inexpressive: small details like the handling of trills are beautifully turned, and there’s a wide variety of piano sound, from the incisive to the lyrical. And his knack of finding the tempo of inevitable rightness carries on throughout this sonata, and, indeed throughout the whole CD. With the right tempo goes the right mood, and in the F major Sonata, he finds perkiness in the opening bars, then lyricism for the second subject. The Allegretto is menacingly veiled, and the final Presto witty and poised. The Op. 10 D major Sonata put me in mind of the musical thinking of Schnabel, and even of his sound, especially in the Largo mesto, where there is sentiment without sentimentality; and the Minuet, which is elegant without being effete. Finest of all is the last sonata on the CD: the so-called Pastoral. The title was not Beethoven’s, and, despite the languid opening, it’s full of musical contrast, all fully realised by Kovacevich, especially the unexpected second movement Andante in the minor. This level of playing bears comparison only with the best, and then it’s a matter of taste: you may prefer the intellect of Brendel, or the outgoingness of Barenboim, but this CD can be considered as a benchmark. Martin Cotton

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