Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Op. 2

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Op. 2
PERFORMER: Maurizio Pollini (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6594

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Of Beethoven’s earliest published set of sonatas, it’s the F minor first work that seems best suited to Pollini’s somewhat austere style. Here, he conveys all the music’s darkness and urgency, with the prestissimo finale hurtling by like the wind.

Pollini is no slouch when it comes to the companion pieces, either, and the semiquaver triplets in the opening movement of the A major middle work are staggeringly fast.

The passages that have them cascading down in arpeggios aren’t hard to play when they’re divided between the two hands, which is what every pianist does, but Beethoven’s own one-handed fingering suggests that he can’t have envisaged the music being taken at quite such breakneck speed.

Pollini’s view of the delicate Scherzo allegretto from the same work is also rather hard-driven. The grandest of these sonatas is the C major No. 3 – a piece whose concerto propensities include a full-blown cadenza in the first movement.

Pollini delivers a fine account of the cadenza, as well as a dazzling performance of the virtuoso rondo finale, but for the rest he’s distinctly unyielding, and while there’s no doubting the mastery of the playing itself, there’s greater warmth and humanity to be found in the recent recordings of these works by Paul Lewis.

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Schiff, in particular, manages to characterise each movement with great insight. Misha Donat