ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 5: Op. 31/1-3; Op. 53 (Waldstein); Andante favori in F, WoO 57
PERFORMER: András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 476 6186
The crowning glory in this fifth volume of András Schiff’s resonantly recorded, chronological survey of the Beethoven sonatas is his urgently propelled Waldstein Sonata. Schiff clearly views this work as the piano equivalent to the Eroica Symphony, and uses maximum dynamic and textural contrast to emphasise its almost orchestral nature. One might take issue with certain interpretative nuances – a tendency for example to attack certain sforzandos with almost Bartókian percussiveness, and to sometimes create an odd balance between the right and left hand in order to draw attention to an interesting bit of part-writing. Richard Goode on Nonesuch is less idiosyncratic yet still conveys the grandeur of the musical argument.
Schiff projects the mischievous humour of the Op. 31 G major Sonata’s first movement, and achieves a wonderfully expressive, almost Chopinesque bel canto line in the right-hand arabesques of its Adagio espressivo. I found the elusive opening movement of the E flat Sonata somewhat bland, although the rest of the work offers plenty of musically stimulating playing. The raging torrents of the D minor Sonata’s first movement are strongly delineated, though once again Schiff tends to over-emphasise certain sforzandos. The Finale is perhaps a little too leisurely given the rhythmic insistence of the musical material – here Goode’s urgency seems more in keeping with the music’s character. Erik Levi