All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos 109-111 (Anne Queffélec)

Anne Queffélec (piano) (Mirare)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Piano Sonatas, Opp 109-111
Anne Queffélec (piano)
Mirare MIR 634   69:25 mins


Ever since Artur Schnabel launched the first ever recording of all the Beethoven sonatas by a single player with a luminous account of Op. 110 in Abbey Road Studios in 1932, the final trilogy has been regarded as a kind of summa demanding the utmost in philosophical or visionary pianism – and evoking a vast range of responses from generations of the greatest players. Now in her seventies, the distinguished French pianist Anne Queffélec offers readings which seem rather consciously to pursue the middle way – avoiding extreme tempos, mitigating dynamic contrasts, seeking to mask seriousness with a certain spontaneity, sustained by flexible phrasing and generous pedalling, as if to remind us that the sound matters as well as the sense.

Compared with the sometimes fierce, sometimes serene concentration of Steven Osborne’s recent recording of the trilogy on Hyperion – something of a benchmark for this reviewer – Queffélec’s accounts, though technically immaculate, might seem to lack weight. And yet…? After the ‘jazzy’ central variation of the finale of Op. 111 in 12/32 time (what on earth did Beethoven’s contemporaries make of that?), she fails quite to sustain intensity through the ensuing passage of dark throbbings – only then to open out radiantly in the final pages of filigree figuration. Again, while one might at times wish for more hushed playing where Beethoven asks for it, she resists the common temptation to take the fugues at the end of Op. 110 too fast.

All said, at the end of the day, surely the very definition of a masterpiece is that it contains more than any one interpretation can possibly reveal?


Bayan Northcott