Piano Sonatas, Vol. 8: Opp 57, 81a, 101
Martin Roscoe (piano)
Deux-Elles DXL1168 59:46 mins
Beethoven jokingly suggested that Op. 101 be called the ‘difficult-to-play’ sonata. No one seems to have warned Martin Roscoe who sails through its technical challenges with nonchalant ease. Its musical ones too. Pellucid pianism casts the opening movement as a lambent prelude to the crisply-etched March that follows. And having exactingly weighed and projected every nuance in the bridging slow movement, Roscoe untangles the finale’s contrapuntal complexity with suave lucidity. It’s a fine conclusion to this penultimate disc in Roscoe’s nine-volume set of the Beethoven sonatas – more complete than most since it’s based on Barry Cooper’s scholarly edition which includes the three youthful sonatas WoO 47.
To begin there’s the work Beethoven considered his greatest sonata achievement (until the Hammerklavier necessitated a reappraisal a decade or so later). The opening of the Appassionata might be a touch devoid of mystery, but Roscoe scrupulously registers every dynamic and expressive detail, drills incisively into the fidgety triplet repetitions and imbues the contrasting idea with a sonorous nobility. That same keen intelligence, structural certainty and sophisticated palette also enlivens Les Adieuxwhere, again, just occasionally, the letter of Beethoven’s instructions wins out over their spirit – not that there’s any lack of spirit as Roscoe nails the tremulous excitement unleashed by the finale.