Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Ludwig van Beethoven
LABELS: Deux-Elles
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4: No. 9 in E, Op, 14/1; No. 10 in G, Op. 14/2; No. 11 in B flat, Op. 22; No. 12 in a flat Op, 26
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)


It’s interesting how different pianists arrange their complete recordings of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Martin Roscoe has opted for groups of opus numbers, or contiguous sonatas, but not in chronological order. So on Volume 4, recorded – as I take it they all were – in 2008, we have three of Beethoven’s most benign works, and Roscoe is at pains in the very interesting dialogue with the producer Mike George printed in the booklet to stress how much of the composer is more genial than people often think. The two Op. 14 Sonatas are among Beethoven’s most relaxed and adorable works, though as Roscoe also points out, it’s never safe to make yourself too comfortable with Beethoven. Roscoe emphasises dynamics in his playing to make this point, as in the final crashing chord of the Andante of the G major Sonata, a movement which is altogether weird in a friendly way. The E major Sonata was arranged by the composer for string quartet, and should certainly be more often performed. As Roscoe also points out, in the fourth sonata on this disc, the Funeral March (No. 12), we feel that the funeral march itself could easily be arranged for orchestra, with its unprecedented tremolos and its strong foreshadowings of the Eroica Symphony, completed in 1804.

Roscoe doesn’t miss a trick. If I have a criticism, and I don’t think I have, it’s that he leaves nothing hidden in these marvellous works, so that the end of his exploration feels a bit too much as if it might be the end of mine too. But of course next time I hear these works I shall hear some new and different things, as always.


Michael Tanner