Piano Sonatas Nos 4-7
Boris Giltburg (piano)
Naxos 9.70308 82:54 mins
In the early stages of what was to become a 32-sonata sequence, the young Beethoven’s mastery of both the piano and composition was already generating a series of outstanding works. We appreciate this all the more here as Boris Giltburg’s playing allows every quality of the music to come across at full value: his approach avoids tendentious point-making, while also presenting something far more vivid and memorable than just a no-nonsense exposition of each sonata. This cycle is being made with a parallel filmed version, so Giltburg delivers each movement in a single unedited take, in this way bringing us closer to the spontaneous feel of a live performance.
The E flat Sonata Op. 7 is a work in two halves, opening with a forward-driving Allegro movement and earnest Largo con gran espressione, followed by a scherzo and finale in a quite different tone, whimsical and pre-Schubertian. Giltburg allows this kind of interplay to speak naturally and beautifully, as he also does throughout the three very different works of the Op. 10 set. No. 1 can often seem like an over-obvious statement in Beethoven’s trademark C minor mode: here it comes across as a nugget of furrowed-brow invention, while No. 2 in F major sparkles as required. The much more ambitious No. 3 in D major emerges as the early masterwork that Giltburg’s booklet note rightly proclaims it to be, with the searching depths and pre-Chopin-and-Liszt manner of its Largo e mesto (slow and sad) second movement memorably brought out. On this form, Naxos’s cycle looks set to be something special.