Martin Roscoe plays Beethoven

'In stressing some of the sonatas' qualities Roscoe has slightly neglected others, equally important'

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Deux-Elles
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano sonatas Nos 1-3, Op. 2; Piano sonata, Wo0 47
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 1165

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This fifth instalment of Martin Roscoe’s Beethoven piano sonata series is intriguingly titled In the beginning… but the reason for that is not particularly compelling. The disc begins with a work without opus number, the composer not considering it part of the canon of his sonatas – neither, having listened to it, need we. A brief three-movement work in E flat, written by Beethoven aged 12, it shows that he could already produce a plausible imitation of Haydn, minus, at this stage, the genius. Fortunately Roscoe is not going to record the other two contemporaneous sonatas.

The rest of the disc is devoted to the first three sonatas with opus number. The Op. 2 three sonatas, written when Beethoven was 23-25, immediately announce his genius in uncompromising terms, and are refreshing in their audacity and confidence. Roscoe’s performances, recorded on his bright-sounding piano, are mainly emphatically projected. I find, though, that the opening of the first is less of a rocket than it should be, as if the composer is firing into the contemporary musical scene and can’t be overlooked. But that is uncharacteristic of these accounts, which mainly go out of their way to emphasise the freshness and cheekiness of Beethoven, for all his indebtedness to Haydn. No listener will be disappointed, but they may well feel that in stressing some of the sonatas’ qualities Roscoe has slightly neglected others, equally important.

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Michael Tanner