Beethoven: Piano Sonatas: in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique); in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 (Moonlight); in C, Op. 53 (Waldstein); in G, Op. 79

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique); in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 (Moonlight); in C, Op. 53 (Waldstein); in G, Op. 79
PERFORMER: Steven Osborne (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67662

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Steven Osborne’s performances of some famous Beethoven sonatas here take a different approach to that adopted by Paul Lewis, the reigning British Beethoven pianist. Lewis’s imaginative, probing explorations are so densely bejeweled with intricate details that some of his touches cannot avoid sounding didactically calculated in nature. Osborne, by contrast, plays in a plainer and more expressively direct manner.

These accounts of the Moonlight and Pathétique are both clean and powerful; if the slow movement of the latter lacks ideal warmth, the second movement of the Moonlight features infectious lilt. Osborne performs the little G major Sonata, Op. 79 with great clarity and almost severely classical articulation – indeed, I could stand more good-natured bluster in the first movement, although fastidious elegance also has its charms.

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Perhaps the most intriguing performance here is of the Waldstein’s finale, where Osborne opts for a broad tempo that he does not substantially modify even at the chordal passage leading into the concluding Prestissimo; more significantly, he treats the main theme (which Beethoven marks ‘sempre pp’) as a benumbed wash of pedaled sonority in which he then underemphasises the melody’s lyrical shape.