Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1: Op. 10 Nos 1-3; in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Deux-Elles
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1: Op. 10 Nos 1-3; in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique)
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 1161

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Martin Roscoe’s Beethoven cycle gets off to a promising start with this group of sonatas including two works in the composer’s dramatic C minor vein. These are thoroughly musical performances, with particularly fine accounts of the slow movements.

Roscoe takes the middle movement of the first sonata in the Op. 10 triptych at a genuine Adagio molto, giving the music all the expressive warmth it needs, while the Largo from the last work of the same set – one of the great tragic utterances among Beethoven’s earlier music – is as deeply-felt as you could wish.

In the Pathétique’s finale, Roscoe presents an ideal combination of lyrical warmth and agitation, and it’s good, too, to hear the opening chord of the first movement’s slow introduction treated rather more subtly than the straightforward fortissimo offered by so many pianists.

If there is a shortcoming in Roscoe’s performances, it is that in some of Beethoven’s more agitated movements the temperature is a little on the low side. That’s true of the finale of Op. 10 No. 1, which isn’t sufficiently fiery to reflect Beethoven’s very rare prestissimo marking, as it is of the Pathétique’s opening Allegro, where the playing lacks a sense of subdued excitement.

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Perhaps the crystal-clear quality of the recording is partly to blame: a slightly less analytical sound might have produced greater atmosphere and warmth. But all in all, Roscoe’s Beethoven cycle promises to be a welcome addition to what is a very crowded field. Misha Donat