Boris Giltburg performs Beethoven Piano Sonatas

Piano Sonatas: No. 8 (Pathétique); No. 21 (Waldstein); No. 32, Op. 111

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 8 (Pathétique); No. 21 (Waldstein); No. 32, Op. 111
PERFORMER: Boris Giltburg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573400

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Is it a good idea to have an entire programme in C major or minor? Still, there is much to enjoy in Boris Giltburg’s performances here. He is a musical and thoughtful player, and his account of Beethoven’s last sonata, Op. 111, in particular is highly accomplished, the opening movement delivered with all the drama and intensity it calls for, and the valedictory variation finale conveying an air of luminous warmth.

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Giltburg is scarcely less compelling in the Pathétique Sonata, but his Waldstein raises a few issues. Its finale, as Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny pointed out, is heavily dependent on the use of the pedal. It’s true that on a modern piano Beethoven’s generous pedal markings for the main rondo theme need to be treated with caution, but we can be sure he wanted a degree of harmonic blurring. Giltburg makes the changes in harmony sound too neat and tidy, and takes the pedal off again far too soon in the Sonata’s closing bars, with their resonating fanfares. He also ignores the repeat in the first movement. Misha Donat