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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Opp 79, 90 & 106

Martin Roscoe (piano) (Deux-Elles)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Beethoven
Piano Sonatas, Vol. 9: Opp 79, 90 & 106 ‘Hammerklavier’
Martin Roscoe (piano)
Deux-Elles DXL1169   68:00 mins

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This final release of Martin Roscoe’s complete Beethoven piano sonatas begins with a dancing, airborne account of the Presto alla tedesca first movement of the little Sonata in G, Op. 79, and with its ensuing barcarolle-like Andante and snappy Allegro vivace finale equally well characterised. Likewise, the Janus-faced two movement Sonata in E minor Op. 90: the first movement, with its abrupt confrontations of gruff, agitated and plaintive material strongly articulated; the almost Schubertian flow of its E major rondo finale affectionately phrased.

And so to Beethoven’s most extreme sonata: the vast so-called ‘Hammerklavier’, composed as a heroic reassertion after a difficult period. Few pianists approach the hair-raising metronome mark he gave its opening Allegro of minim equals 138. Roscoe’s ebullient launch hovers around 120, much varied later in the ebb and flow of Beethoven’s material, but never losing an undercurrent of boundless energy. In the bizarre little scherzo, Roscoe allows Beethoven’s humour to speak for itself without exaggeration. Yet he finds a strikingly remote touch for the mezza voce opening of the slow movement – that vast, troubled meditation which seems constantly on the verge of some great tragic utterance Beethoven cannot quite bring himself to deliver. As for the demented inventiveness of the final fugue, in which some of the greatest pianists have come unstuck, Roscoe keeps a firm command to the end.

The recording has the ambience of a salon rather than concert hall, and the booklet includes an illuminating discussion between Roscoe and his seasoned producer Mike George.

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Bayan Northcott