COMPOSERS: Ludwig van Beethoven
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven Complete Piano Sonatas
WORKS: Complete Piano Sonatas
PERFORMER: HJ Lim
CATALOGUE NO: 4649522
No, not ‘complete’: the Op. 49 pair is omitted, as though their 18th-century grace – and accessibility to amateurs – disqualifies them from inclusion. But otherwise, this eight-CD box represents a mighty statement from the 26-year-old Korean pianist (right). I have already reviewed Volume One (in this year’s April issue) and now find myself, if not eating my words, certainly qualifying them a little. When her idiosyncratic pianism is consumed in bulk, one sees method in her madness, as with Glenn Gould’s.
As the finale of her Hammerklavier attests, Lim is blessed – and cursed – with amazing technical dexterity: the fact that this movement is near-flawless is offset by the way the music coalesces into a frantic blur at moments of peak intensity. By taking this Sonata’s first movement at the furious minim=138 metronome reading, she affirms her devotion to what she sees as his intentions, but discounts his deafness and the very different nature of the modern grand.
But she’s consistent: after listening to a few of these Sonatas, you get to know what to expect. She will play the slow movements too fast for their mystery to emerge, and distort passages of bass cantabile with ugly rubatos: she doesn’t (yet) understand how to let Beethoven’s majestic Adagios breathe. But when his music calls for craziness, she’s there on the button, and the Scherzos have wonderful freshness. In her opening Allegros she possesses the touch of a true Beethovenian.