Beethoven, Bart—k & Brahms

COMPOSERS: Bartók & Brahms,Beethoven
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Perspectives 2
WORKS: Out of Doors Suite; Sonata, Op. 90
PERFORMER: Andreas Haefliger (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2082
Like the first volume of Andreas Haefliger’s Perspectives, which I reviewed in November 2004, this is a well-planned concert programme, with a pair of Beethoven’s two-movement sonatas framing Bartók’s Out of Doors Suite, and after the interval, so to speak, the most ambitious of the early sonatas by Brahms. There’s much to be said for a mixed programme of this kind that can be taken in at a single sitting, and I wish there were more of them around.

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These are in the main fine performances, and very well recorded. Particularly impressive is the Brahms F minor Sonata. Its main slow movement, inspired by a poem describing a moonlit love-scene, is quite beautifully played, and the finale has all the verve and energy it needs. Only in the opening movement’s lyrical second subject does Haefliger perhaps relax too much. The very finest performances – Clifford Curzon’s classic Decca recording, for instance, or Yevgeny Kissin (Sony) – manage to imbue the passage with warmth and expression without losing sight of the basic pulse. Haefliger is freer still in the opening movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 90, playing the first subject’s more reflective phrases so much slower than the more assertive idea that surrounds them, and surging ahead so impulsively in the exposition’s closing moments, that the structure is in danger of falling apart. But there’s no doubt that Haefliger is a fine musician, and his recital as a whole gives much satisfaction.

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Misha Donat