ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas: No. 28 in A, Op. 101; No. 29 in B flat, Op. 106 (Hammerklavier)
PERFORMER: Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 475 8662
The Hammerklavier Sonata, composed 1817-8, is by some way the most demanding work in the keyboard repertoire, both for the pianist and for listeners. Everything about it is on a gigantic scale, and its supreme stature is unassailable. Mitsuko Uchida is the first pianist I have heard who rises to every one of its challenges, producing an interpretation which is as profound as it is technically impeccable. She has thought her way into every last note and pause, but the result is not in the least – as it can easily be with Uchida – overwrought or mannered. This is Beethoven in all his grandeur and with all his capacity to express spiritual agony (the slow movement) and heroic struggle and triumph (the first and last movements) revealed with shattering directness.
I have seen and heard Sviatoslav Richter, Claudio Arrau, Maurizio Pollini, listened of course to Artur Schnabel and the many classic ‘greats’, and often been impressed, but none of them has been so complete in their understanding and conveying of this work as Uchida. No doubt, with the recording made over five days earlier in the year, she was able to rest and gather new strength – in this case very necessary. And she includes as fine an account of the marvellous Sonata Op. 101, the entrance-door, as it were, to Beethoven’s last period, and an entrancing work. This disc is of a calibre that I count myself lucky to encounter once in a decade.Michael Tanner