ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 4 in E flat, Op. 7; No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathétique); No. 30 in E, Op. 109; No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110; No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
PERFORMER: Paavali Jumppanen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1298-2D
The more I hear of Paavali Jumppanen’s Beethoven sonata series, the more perplexed I become. I was impressed by the first disc I heard, with its muscularity and intensity. But I have grown increasingly suspicious of the kind of intensity Jumppanen purveys, and on one of these two discs I found it positively annoying. To make matters worse, it was the first of the discs, with two early sonatas, that irritated me more.
Both are very familiar pieces, in the case of the Pathétique too familiar, I’m afraid. I played it to death in my teens and killed it for myself. This performance doesn’t help, with huge silences in the opening grave of the first movement, then the allegro molto of its main section a prestissimo, an ultra-expressive slow movement and an overdriven last movement. The less familiar Op. 7 Sonata fares little better, so it was only grim determination which forced me onto the second disc, with the last three sonatas, bywords of intimacy and transcendence.
As it turned out, Jumppanen, though by no means one of the finest performers of these searching works, nonetheless approaches them with refreshing straightforwardness, where they so often wilt under a pianist’s determination to reveal their secrets. Jumppanen’s accounts might well serve as a good way in for anyone who feels overawed by their reputation, which is justified but intimidating.