Beethoven¥Nordheim

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Nordheim
LABELS: Simax
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven,Nordheim
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111Listen; Listen – Inside Outside
PERFORMER: Einar Steen-Nøkleberg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1269
This unusual release bookends, or wraps or sandwiches, Beethoven’s Op. 111 between two versions of a piano work by the leading Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim. Listen was composed in 1971 as a work exploring complexes of timbre and resonance; in the new version Listen – Inside Outside for piano and live electronics, developed in 2005 with Mats Claesson, what the pianist plays is recorded with delay and timbre modulation and fed back to both pianist and audience, creating a multiplicity of layers and a much-expanded range of timbre. Nordheim felt that Beethoven, too, was exploring timbre and resonance in his own way, most obviously of course in Op. 111’s Arietta finale.

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Whether the works actually enhance each other, individual listeners will have to judge for themselves. The impressive Einar Steen-Nøkleberg has already, and quite recently, recorded the Beethoven Sonata for Simax (reviewed September 2006): this strikes me as in some respects a tauter, more muscular reading, even in the faster variations of the finale. His pedalling is a model of sensitivity. Inside, with its ebb and flow of gamelan-like repetitions, is an intriguing conception, but I rather felt the electronics coarsened its appeal, the jet-stream glissandos becoming a distraction. Listeners must judge for themselves, but this is certainly an ear-challenging disc, and marvellously played and recorded. Calum MacDonald