Beethoven: Sontats Nos 12-15

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Sontats Nos 12-15
PERFORMER: Gerhard Oppitz (piano)

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These four works composed at the dawn of the 19th century find Beethoven experimenting with new approaches to the sonata design. The A flat Sonata Op. 26 consists essentially of four character-pieces, not one of them in a traditional sonata form; while the Op. 27 pair (the second is the Moonlight) tread the borderline between sonata and fantasy.

As for the Pastoral, Op. 28, it anticipates the broad, relaxed style Beethoven was to explore in such later works as the Pastoral Symphony and the Archduke Piano Trio.

Gerhard Oppitz is an accomplished pianist, and he’s well up to the technical demands of such pieces as the Moonlight Sonata’s tempestuous finale, or the concluding Allegro of Op. 26 with its continual stream of semiquavers.

Where he’s sometimes less persuasive is in the more intimate side of Beethoven. The famous opening Adagio of the Moonlight, in particular, sounds rather heavy, with individual beats of the bar too clearly delineated; and half way through the piece Oppitz indulges in a big crescendo that mars the hushed atmosphere of a piece Beethoven wanted played ‘very delicately’ throughout.

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Above all, what’s missing here and elsewhere in this recital is a sense of poetry – a quality that’s present in abundance in the more penetrating accounts of the Op. 27 sonatas by Maria João Pires (DG), or by Richard Goode, who offers exceptionally fine performances of all four works recorded here.