Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 23, Op. 57 ‘Appassionata’; Brahms: Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Rihm: Piano Piece No. 5 ‘Tombeau’; R Schumann: Piano Sonata No. 2
Fabian Müller (piano)
Berlin Classics 0301310BC 69:59 mins
Born in Beethoven’s hometown of Bonn, the young German pianist Fabian Müller tells us he regards the Appassionata Sonata as one of the central masterworks of Western piano music; ‘…simply one hundred per cent on all levels: heart, head and insight.’ His recital is accordingly completed by three works he believes are intimately linked with Beethoven’s Sonata and its ideas.
Schumann’s G minor Sonata is certainly the tersest, fiercest of the three he wrote; its whirling first movement notoriously marked ‘as fast a possible’, then, towards the end, ‘still faster’ – and Müller plays the original Presto passionato finale, which Clara made Schumann replace with ‘something easier’. The two Brahms rhapsodies are among his darkest, most turbulent piano pieces, if mitigated by episodes of restless lyricism. And Klavierstücke No. 5, ‘Tombeau’, by the prolific 69-year old Wolfgang Rihm is a fragmented, funeral succession of crunching note clusters and icy chimings.
Yet, for all the intensity this programme would seem to demand and the manifest virtuosity of his technique, Müller seems to aim for a slightly distanced and more thoughtful approach – opting for an older Steinway which, under usage, may have lost a little percussive edge, but gained in roundness of sonority, as recorded here set slightly back in a warm acoustic. One has certainly heard more aggressively up-front accounts of the Appassionata, more chunky, hard-hitting Brahms. Still this finely interpreted choice of works, in this particular ambiance achieves its own personal distinction.