Beethoven

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Diabelli Variations; Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)
PERFORMER: Nick van Bloss (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 6276

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Following an enforced career break of some 15 years, Nick van Bloss has made a remarkable comeback. He is a natural musician, and there are moments in his performance of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, particularly in the more intimate numbers, where his gift for bringing out the variegated layers of the music’s textures serves him well.

But I did find myself wondering if he’s looked deeply enough into this great masterpiece, Beethoven’s last large-scale piano work, or has spent sufficient time with it. What Van Bloss misses above all is the music’s essential quirkiness and humour: time and again he ignores Beethoven’s crescendos (the majority of them leading nowhere), and underplays his stabbing accents. These are features that contribute enormously to the work’s character, and in its expressive high-point, the great C minor Largo that precedes the fugue, the crescendos are a vital ingredient of the music’s emotional intensity. Van Bloss is rather reticent here, as he is, indeed, in the fugue itself, where he seriously lacks drama and forcefulness.

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More successful are the outer movements of the Appassionata Sonata, where Van Bloss confronts the music’s impetuosity and turbulence head-on, even if he’s sometimes stingy with the pedal. But the slow movement, again a set of variations, is terribly plodding, with no real sense of line. Coming as it does after Van Bloss’s successful recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (reviewed May 2011), this new disc is a disappointment. Misha Donat