Nelson Goerner performs Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Alpha
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat, Op. 106 (Hammerklavier); Bagatelles, Op. 126
PERFORMER: Nelson Goerner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ALPHA 239  

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Beethoven’s largest, most difficult – for the player and the listener – sonata has received several amazing recordings in recent years, and Nelson Goerner’s is one of them. It is also a highly individual though never quirky account. He makes extensive use of the sustaining pedal, as Beethoven instructs, but which most performers avoid, since it can result in a haze of sound which seems to them alien to Beethoven’s sound-world. Perhaps it is, but the effect is striking, not only in the immense slow movement, which sounds more revolutionary even than usual, but in the daunting fugue, where contrapuntal asperities become, in places, an alarming thicket which Beethoven would have loved, even if he had been surprised by it. For once the transitional passage after the slow movement, and leading into the colossal fugue, sounds an integral part of the work, instead of a strange relaxation.  

The disc is rounded off with the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, Beethoven’s last piano work, a gloriously insouciant set of short pieces, as profound as some of the movements in his last quartets and sonatas, but with an ease that shows the composer in his most benign mood, and here ideally played.

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Michael Tanner