ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 14, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); No. 21, Op. 53 (Waldstein); No. 26, Op. 81A (Les Adieux); No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110
PERFORMER: Nelson Freire (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 475 8155
There’s some dazzling pianism on display here, but also a rare sensibility that enables Nelson Freire to plumb the depths of Beethoven’s slow movements without ever sentimentalising them. In the comparatively brief ‘Absence’ movement from the Les Adieux Sonata, for instance, he conveys a tangible sense of regret, and of time passing slowly; and while his account of the Moonlight Sonata’s famous opening Adagio is less lingering than some, it is genuinely poetic. A pity, though, that Freire fails to observe the repeat in the Moonlight’s finale – its only sonata-form movement.
There are pianists who take a more tragic view of the Arioso dolente from the late sonata Op. 110, but Freire’s concern is to bind together the two seemingly disparate elements at play in its latter half. Beethoven alternates the arioso with a fugue, and the way he notates the transition from one to the other suggests that they share a common pulse. Freire may be marginally too flowing in the arioso, and correspondingly over-relaxed in the fugue, but the piece has a rare sense of coherence. Only the Waldstein is rather disappointing, with a helter-skelter opening movement that makes the music sound rather garbled. Paul Lewis’s recent version is more spacious, and allows the keyboard to shimmer more resplendently. For an Op. 110 that really tugs at the heart-strings, Solomon’s 1956 recording remains hard to beat; and there are warm and lucid alternatives for Les Adieux and the Moonlight from Richard Goode. But certainly, this new disc is one that affords much pleasure.