Beethoven: Sonatas, Vol. 9

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Sonatas, Vol. 9: Piano Sonatas Nos 5-7, 17-20 & 22
PERFORMER: Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Bridge 9274A/B

With these two CDs, Garrick Ohlsson brings his recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas to a close. The discs have been issued over a period of almost a decade, this pair being recorded in 2008. The excellence, both of performance and recording, has been uniform; Ohlsson realises that, even in the early Sonatas on the first of these two discs, Beethoven only needs to be played with devoted accuracy for the extraordinary qualities of his works to shine forth. There is hardly a page of the Op. 10 Sonatas, which occupy most of this first disc, that doesn’t surprise, invigorate, even alarm.
With a flawless technique, and recorded in such sumptuous sound, Ohlsson doesn’t miss a trick, though a very few of his decisions are controversial: he tends to play either piano or almost fortissimo, with little in between, for example. The sonorous grandeur of his playing, combined with his alertness to Beethoven’s ever-present subversiveness, reminds me of his great teacher Claudio Arrau at his peak in the 1950s; and I can’t imagine any praise higher than that. Michael Tanner