Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Vol. 7: No. 13 in E flat, Op. 27 No. 1 (Quasi una fantasia); No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2; No. 25 in G, Op. 79; No. 30 in E, Op. 109
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Hyperion CDA68199 70:22 mins
As we would expect from Angela Hewitt, there’s much thoughtful and deeply-felt playing here. Hewitt is particularly successful in Beethoven’s slow movements: the lyrically sustained Adagio of the Tempest Sonata Op. 31 No. 2, the gently lilting Andante of the little G major Op. 79, and the profound serenity of the concluding variations in the Sonata Op. 109. The recitatives in the Tempest Sonata’s first movement, aptly bathed in pedal, are hauntingly done, too, though there are times elsewhere in the piece where Hewitt’s tendency to be over-forceful with Beethoven’s sforzando markings disturbs the music’s flow. The same is true in Op. 27 No. 1 (the companion to the Moonlight Sonata), where her left hand chords in the first movement’s quick episode sound like pistol shots. And in the same sonata’s second movement, exaggerated phrasing of the three-note groups produces a rather spasmodic effect.
Hewitt’s tempos are mainly well judged, though the opening Presto alla tedesca of the little Sonata Op. 79 lacks sparkle (apart from Op. 10 No. 3 this is Beethoven’s only piano sonata with a first movement carrying a presto marking), and the Prestissimo middle movement of Op. 109 could also do with greater urgency. There are a couple of curious misreadings in Op. 109, the more serious of them concerning the finale’s fourth variation, where Hewitt plays the first left-hand note as though it were in the bass clef, rather than the treble. The bass reading cannot be right, not least because that first note emerges seamlessly out of the preceding variation’s running semiquavers in the treble.