WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 30 in E (Op. 109); Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat (Op. 110); Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor (Op. 111)
PERFORMER: Marios Papadopoulos (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: IMP Classics PCD 1009 DDD
This generously filled disc of Beethoven’s last three masterpieces for the keyboard should attract converts, and if you haven’t explored this repertory yet, now is the time. The Cypriot pianist Marios Papadopoulos (who apart from his solo concert engagements has also embarked on a career as a conductor) made his British debut in 1973 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and is clearly a pianist of distinction. His approach to these sublime works is leisurely to say the least, but what is more convincing is his ability to sustain a level of intensity in the slow movements. His exposition of the opening movement of Op. 109, for example, is quite masterly in its understatement.
But the more one listens, the less persuasive is his tonal control, and one is reminded that other pianists have created greater poetry in these works despite a more urgent pulse. His reluctance to project a fiery Beethovenian vitality in the Appassionato movements will raise further doubts. The dynamic contrasts are there, but not that final sense of revolutionary zeal. Nevertheless, there is much impressive playing in this recommendable performance, even if Beethoven’s vision is not fully realised. The recording is bright and clear but inclines towards stridency, though not unpleasantly so. Neil Morris