Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathetique); Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata); Piano Sonata No. 30 in E, Op. 109; Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110; Pi

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Simax
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Pathetique); Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata); Piano Sonata No. 30 in E, Op. 109; Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110; Piano Sonata
PERFORMER: Einar Steen-Nøkleberg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1218
This two-disc set offers three of the

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best-known of Beethoven’s named

sonatas, and then the last three of all,

the summit of piano sublimity.

Disc 1 was first issued in 1990; the

sound is tremendous, not to say

alarming. The opening chord of the

Pathétique Sonata will strike fear

into neighbours as well as listeners.

All these three works are played

with extreme drama, sometimes

too much; but if you think you have

heard the Appassionata once too

often, then this is the recording to

head for. The performances take

virtuosity to its limits, without

sacrificing themselves to it. And in

the long-breathed opening of the

Moonlight Sonata, Steen-Nøkleberg

creates an hypnotic effect thanks

to the immaculate evenness of his

playing. It’s in fast movements that

he gets the bit between his teeth in

a way that suits the tempestuous

nature of the music.

The last three sonatas, recorded

in 2003, are played with much

more restraint, less being made of

Beethoven’s violent changes of mood than might be. These are powerful,

deeply considered accounts, yet

balance between the hands too

much favours the left hand, and

there is an absence of long lines

just where one most needs it. With

Stephen Kovacevich you get that

and everything else, and though I

shall certainly want to listen to Einar

Steen-Nøkleberg again I suspect that

he won’t, as the greatest interpreters

do, open up new horizons with each

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listening. Michael Tanner