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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos 23-26 (Giltburg)

Boris Giltburg (piano) (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Piano Sonatas Nos 23-26
Boris Giltburg (piano)
Naxos 9.70313   61:23 mins

Beethoven’s sonatas explore a musical world so wide-ranging that not even a pianist of Boris Giltburg’s quality will excel when exploring every corner of it. The seventh instalment of this complete cycle takes in two major masterworks – the Appassionata, Op. 57 and Les adieux, Op. 81a – plus two smaller and very different ones in Op. 78 in F sharp major and Op. 79 in G major. And what impresses is the comprehensive success-rate of Giltburg’s approach, rather than the odd reservation here or there.

The Appassionata’s F minor opening instantly focuses attention, and the sweep and drama of Giltburg’s journey through its darkly turbulent outer movements never lets up for a moment; but perhaps the wonderful burnished colours of the central Andante con moto are kept on slightly too tight a rein for them to sing? And while Les adieux is delivered with superb panache, the finale’s sequence of little hesitations before the joyful ending feel as if they’re over-thought.

The two shorter works receive near-ideal interpretations. As Giltburg rightly insists in his booklet note, while the scope of Op. 78’s two-movement design seems modest, this is a disproportionately memorable creation: he beautifully conveys the luminous calm of its F sharp major  tonality (a quality later much taken up by Liszt). And the sparkle of Op. 79’s outer movements is offset with much soul by his way with the wistful simplicity of the central G minor Andante.


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Malcolm Hayes