2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
J. R. Trtek
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Perahia does a masterful turn in the Pastorale sonata, arguably the focal point of this release, and also in the Sonata No. 10, which has always been one of my favorites as well. One other reviewer called the tone of the album a bit too refined, and I don't know that I'd argue with that, though it seems to me that that's perhaps more a criticism of the program itself rather than Perahia's playing -- all four sonatas on this album are on the prim side, after all. If you want more convulsive Beethoven keyboard playing, try other works that are that way to begin with. For refined Beethoven, this is very good stuff indeed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I think this might be a great recording, despite the fact that it contains none of the great heaven-storming sonatas and none of the transcendentally beautiful ones -- and despite the fact that it is accompanied by the most vapid, unhelpful, and, on one key point, inaccurate program booklet by Jeremy Siepmann. Does it really help to be told that Beethoven doesn't give us grief but the essence of grief? Especially in notes on a program that has nothing to do with grief? And does it really help to be told that two of the sonatas here were composed after Beethoven was dead? And does it help that the longest sonata on the disc isn't mentioned at all? But enough complaining: what about the music?
What gives this program its unity, I believe, is humor -- all of these sonatas are fun. Sometimes the fun is slightly sinister (as in the slow movement of the Op.28) and sometimes it is almost laugh-out-loud funny (as in the final movement of Op. 14 No.2), and at yet other times we have the sheer delight in making the piano make odd sounds and phrases that don't belong in any well-behaved classical sonata -- in other words, the medium is the message, so to speak, and any time that is the case, one has possibilities of detachment and humor. Even the funeral march in Op. 26 isn't moving, in the way one expects -- it's rather as if Beethoven is playing with the funeral march (as he decidedly isn't in the "Eroica" symphony, say). With all that said, it's not surprising that I found this totally enjoyable and invigorating -- for if humor is indeed what it's about, the individual character of each sonata is nonetheless marked and once again we're faced with the sheer fertility and inventiveness of this great composer. Perahia's playing of the music is superb -- the whole thing sparkles, the individual lines are lucidly laid out, the dynamic gradations are subtle and magical, and the recording does it all justice, giving Perahia lovely reproduction of tone from high to low, and never letting the lines get muddied. You can hear what both hands are doing clearly at all times. So I'll reaffirm: a great recording!
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The duly famous living pianist Murray Perahia has taken his time with the Beethoven sonatas. This is the latest volume, number five? We have so far gotten stellar readings of the early three Opus 2 sonatas, plus sonatas 7, 8, 17, 18, 23, 26, 28 ... spread across four previous, separately released red book CD discs. Now we are able to add four more to the growing list of completed recordings. Not quite halfway through the famous 32 sonatas, then.
This CD starts off with 12, then goes to 9,10, and 15. I confess I don't quite get the shifted order, not that it makes that much difference; but as piano student I got comfortable with just taking the piano sonatas in sequence. If I really continue to be bothered, I can re-record a CDR in the serial sequence for home play.
The glorious thirty-two piano sonatas are a set, and not at all a set, all at the same time. One of the most fascinating things about following Beethoven is that followers may get involved in the challenge and fascination of his musical development and growth and deepening over the years of his singular, pivotal creative life. Thank goodness the composer was so prolific. We can follow amazing and wonderful paths of change in the symphonies, in the piano sonatas, in the string quartets, and to a lesser extent in the five piano concertos or the violin sonatas or the cello sonatas. Plenty of other works in the composer's catalog mark additional high peaks and enhanced musical topographies of sheer western classical discovery. Single works like the violin concerto, the Missa Solemnis, Diabelli Variations, Fidelio, the Triple Concerto - further light up the heart and mind, provided we can pay decent attention to so much treasure.
To my ears, the piano sonatas are like having unfettered access to a secret treasure vault filled to the brim with, say, Fabergé Russian Easter Eggs. Each is fabulous and uniquely wrought on its own. Taken altogether, the collection almost overwhelms the senses, and perhaps the mind.
Great pianists have played these 32 sonatas for a couple of centuries, and indeed the best of the available particular readings have seemed to plumb such depths that they strike the ear and heart and mind as musically exemplary, fulsome, wise, complete. Only to be superseded by more amazement as other pianists worked the seemingly inexhaustible veins of priceless raw ore. As Artur Schnabel said, Beethoven's music is better than it can be played.
One touchstone for comparisons is the Bruce Hungerford sonatas I can take down from the fav shelves. Hungerford did not live to do a complete set, though one dearly hopes that Perahia is able to finish. I also like the complete sets by Anton Kuerti (Canada), John Lill (UK), John O'Conor (Ireland), and Claudio Arrau (Chile, then the world). Other superb sets have been published. Among the many strong complete sets that we can properly consider front runners I fail to warm sufficiently to the relentlessly gray piano tone of Richard Goode to be able to stay that particular course.
One of the complex serendipities of Perahia's cycle so far is his complex, ringing, nuanced piano tone. He cannot make a harsh sound, though his szforzando is as vital and punchy as, say, Hungerford or Kuerti or Lill. Beyond the sheer joys of the player's fundamental physicality stand the high intellect and forceful humanity of the composer himself. Thus, one of the further delights of Perahia's readings is that he knows how to let his basic musical nature become transparent enough that our distance from Beethoven dissolves into shocking and alive encounter.
Some will criticize Perahia's physicality, perhaps; but the piano has changed greatly since the composer's era, and anybody now playing Beethoven on the modern concert grand piano must go far beyond simplistic originalisms or period performance practices. How little can the earlier fortepiano comprehensively define what Beethoven was saying to us, let alone limit or hold captive how we in this current century now bring ourselves to hear the message.
Another delight in Perahia's readings is how he lets the composer's fecund improvisatory genius shine through, particularly in the last fast movements of these four sonatas. Of the four, the Pastoral (15) is the better known and more often played in concerts. Yet what joy to hear Perahia taking each and every sonata for all its considerable worth, no orphans, no fairy tale lesser sister Cinderellas sentenced to the laundry or kitchens of mundane musical life on the grand Beethoven estates.
Despite not being SACD, the piano sound is just about as good as it gets. And given the resonance of Perahia's touch and tone, failing to record that keyboard without any touch of glass or hardness might have been the only downside. Compared to Kuerti, for example, the piano sound here is whole and round and balanced.
Most buyers will already have their established favs, but if not, the Perahia Beethoven discs are very fine places to start collecting the piano sonatas. The longer this series goes on, the nearer it stretches towards finishing, and the undertone of nail-biting worry sets in, that for whatever reasons Perahia may not finally be able to give us all thirty-two sonatas. But spin this disc, set aside worries, and let Beethoven remind us how humanity at its best is replete with wit, spunk, soaring intellect, and such generous, free warmth. Nothing at all on this disc prevents it from taking and sharing pride of place on the same shelves with Kuerti, Lill, O'Conor, Arrau, Hungerford, and a great many others of note.
All the Perahia Beethoven discs, highly recommended. My guess? These readings will last, and last, and last.