Beethoven: Piano Sonatas: No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique); No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 (Tempest); No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique); No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 (Tempest); No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)
PERFORMER: Ingrid Fliter (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EMI 094 5732

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This programme of three minor-key Sonatas summons from Ingrid Fliter a suitably serious response, and the recording is engineered to sound dark, rich, and firm-toned. I am not entirely satisfied by this Pathétique, which offers barely a whiff of improvisatory questing in the slow introduction (this impression becomes pronounced when Fliter makes the unconvential decision to reprise it as part of the exposition repeat), and underplays Beethoven’s accents in the Allegro, thereby producing streamlined energy rather than eloquently forceful rhetoric. In the second movement, the melody seems somewhat laboured and in places the accompaniment gains undue prominence.

In the Tempest, Fliter again seems thoughtful rather than spontaneous; her touch seems too tangible for the mysterious slow arpeggios in the first movement and the filigree in the second. Fortunately, she demonstrates an impressive grasp of both expressive character and rhythmic integrity in the problematical third movement (even in the development section she allows each bar to sound like three beats subdivided in two rather than two beats subdivided in three).

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The high point arrives with the Appassionata, where Fliter adds more overt power and agitation to her approach; the tempo in the second movement is a little quicker and more flowing than one might expect from her, and she saves extra decibels for the pandemonium of the Sonata’s final nine bars. Fliter’s playing may be poised and earnest rather than flashy, but although one might wish for more visceral energy, her intensity and commitmentare everywhere apparent. David Breckbill