- Audio CD (Oct. 27 2009)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import, CD, Audiobook
- Label: Naxos
- ASIN: B002N5KEEM
- In-Print Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition 12: Piano Sonatas 6 Import, CD, Audiobook
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Audio CD, Import, CD, Oct 27 2009
"Biret grasps the size of Beethoven' style. The polyphony is laid out in a relaxed way with little indulgence in point making. She keeps the big line and yet is thankfully sparing in her use of fortissimos. The piano tone is sumptuous. Biret' gentle and
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The opus 14 sonatas date from about 1799, making them contemporary with Beethoven's famous Sonata Pathetique, opus 13. These two works, however, differ radically from the Pathetique and from the large-scale, virtuosic piano sonatas (opus 2, opus 7, opus 10) that proceeded it. The two works of opus 14 are intimate and lyrical and not too difficult to perform. They are too frequently overlooked, and it was good to have the opportunity to focus upon them in Biret's recording.
The three-movement sonata in E major, opus 14 no 1 is sometimes remembered because Beethoven transcribed it for string quartet. Beethoven wrote: "I have arranged only one of my sonatas for string quartet, because I was so earnestly implored to do so; and I am quite convinced that nobody could do the same thing with ease." The opening allegro features an expansive, singing theme played quietly over repeated chords. There is a contrasting and even more lyrical second theme. After a short development, the opening theme returns in octaves, with some force. Instead of a slow movement, the second movement of the work is a gracious minuet in E-minor with a trio in the major. The work concludes with a flowing rondo based on a theme highly similar to the opening theme of the first movement.
The sonata in G major, opus 14 no. 2 is frequently given to young piano students as their first Beethoven sonata. It is a lovely, lyrical sonata full of innocence and romance. The opening movement is based upon an off-beat lilting theme of six notes which, among other things, receives a false reprieve in the surprisingly extended development section. The second movement is a theme followed by a charming set of three variations in which the hands alternate with each other and the variations alternate between detached and legato passages. The finale is a whimsical rondo which Beethoven marks as a scherzo.
The opus 27 sonatas were composed in 1801. They are both ground-breaking works that Beethoven marked "Sonata quasi una Fantasia," due to their improvisatory, highly integrated character.
It is a shame that the sonata in E-flat major, opus 27, no 1 has been overshadowed by its companion because this sonata is a masterpiece in its own right. Each of the movements in this four-movement work follow one another without pause. The sonata is dazzling in the way it ties together disparate musical material. In his edition of the Beethoven sonatas, the British musicologist Donald Francis Tovey said that this work begins as a "divertimento" that "becomes formidable as it proceeds." Tovey continued: "beware of the first movement; it seems childish, alike in its playfulness and its sentimentality: but it is quietly laughing at something and prigs may find it is laughing at them."
As Tovey stated, the work opens with a simple andante which is interrupted mid-course by a furious allegro. The second movement is a boisterous scherzo which is followed by a stately, and highly expressive adagio. The finale is a rambunctious rondo, but it is interrupted at the end by a reprise of the adagio theme before turning to a final presto conclusion. Biret offers a wonderfully perceptive reading of this comparatively infrequently performed sonata.
Beethoven never called his sonata in c-sharp minor, opus 27, no. 2, the "Moonlight", but the name has stuck from the beginning. This is one of the rare works of music that was recognized as a masterpiece from its earliest days with a stature that has been undiminished with time. This work is loved by people who have lived with classical music for their lifetimes and by those who know nothing of it. Biret plays the "Moonlight" sonata in a fluid, self-effacing way. She avoids the temptation to take the opening movement too slowly, and she keeps a steady, flowing tone and rhythm. It is easy to distinguish each of the three voices in her performance. Biret, unlike some performers, has carefully thought about the intermediate movement and makes it an effective bridge between the opening and conclusion of the work. The concluding presto agitato is played with passion and clarity. Biret offers an excellent reading of a much-beloved and recorded work.
This CD offers a good way to get to know some infrequently performed Beethoven together with the "Moonlight". Lovers of the Beethoven sonatas will enjoy hearing Biret's renditions of these cherished works in the ongoing cycle.
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These three sonatas are highly different in style and frequently are grouped together on the same program. (In his book "Playing the Beethoven Sonatas", Robert Taub describes his own performance of the Beethoven sonata cycle. He groups these three works as part of a program together with the sonata in G major, opus 31, no. 1). The Pathetique is perhaps Beethoven's best-known work in this form. It has been recorded innumerable times, making the competition among recordings intense. The opus 90 sonata also is frequently played, but less often than the Pathetique while the opus 7 will be less familiar to most listeners. Biret gives her most convincing performaces in these two latter, less frequently played works. She offers here very fine readings of works I have lived with and care about a great deal. The recordings are widely spaced, with the opus 7 dating from 2002, the Pathetique from 2006, and the opus 90 from 2004. I will offer some brief comments on each sonata.
Beethoven composed the sonata no. 4 in E-flat major, opus 7 in 1797. Of the 32 sonatas, it is exceeded in length only by the "Hammerklavier", opus 106. Beethoven designated this four-movement work as a "grand" sonata and, unlike its opus 2 predecessors and its opus 10 successors, it was published singly rather than part of a group of three. The opus 7 is an ambitious, spacious, virtuosic work in with a young Beethoven was trying to show what he could do as both a composer and a performer. The work is technically forbidding with long skips, long passages of octaves, changes in rhythm, rapid tempos, light, extended scales, and tremolos. The opening allegro molto e con brio is a broad-scaled movement in itself based upon an onrushing theme based upon four chords stated at the outset and upon a series of repeated notes. It is music of jubilation and of promise. The second movement, Largo con gran expressione, is a long slow movement of a grand character. It too is based too on a chordal theme with long pauses. (There are few opportunites for rests in the opening movement of opus 7) The movement includes an operatic second theme, an extensive development, and a return of the opening material. This early Beethoven slow movement is full of passion and grandeur, and it influenced Schubert in his final sonata for the piano. The third movement continues the broad scope of the sonata with the longest minuet to be found in any of them. It opens with a light, rhythmic theme to dispel the tension of the largo. The trio is virtuosic and lively with long passages of triplets and hand-crossings. The finale is a gracious, lyrical and extended rondo of a light character. But it has a stormy, blocky episode in the minor key and a long, broad summation in an extended coda. This is a superb early piece which has stayed with me for good reason over the years.
Composed in 1799, the sonata in c minor, opus 13, is one of the few that received its name, the Sonata Pathetique, from Beethoven himself. The term means "tragic" or "noble" rather than "pathetic" with its modern connotations. This is an early work, but of a different character from the opus 7. From the outset, the popularity of this work has almost been its own worst enemy as it is frequently played and all-too-frequently attempted by pianists, including myself when young, who are not sufficiently prepared for it. The tone for the opening movement is set by the opening grave which returns prior to the development and again just before the conclusion. The grave frames an allegro molto e con brio which is angry and tragic and character and played very quickly over a tremolo figure. Biret takes the grave slowly and solemnly indeed. She observes the repeat in the first movement to the allegro. (Some pianists repeat to the grave introduction while other pianists omit the repeat altogether.) Biret captures the songlike intensity of the second movement, adagio cantabile of this work, while she gives an appropriately light reading to the concluding rondo. Biret offers a well-thought out and musical reading of this great sonata.
The sonata in e minor opus 90 dates from 1814. It was Beethoven's first piano sonata since the "Les Adieux" opus 81a composed five years earlier. The opus 90 was Beethoven's only important work during the year in which it was written, but it is an accomplishment that more than justifies the year. Today, this two-movement sonata is generally taken as initiating Beethoven's third manner of composition, and it is grouped with the final five piano sonatas which date from 1816-1822. Opus 90 is in two contrasting movements with notations given by Beethoven for the first time in German. The first movement is terse and laconic with a main theme which seems to designate struggle and passion. The theme back and forth from low to high register and is punctuated by long runs and passages of repeated, yearing chords. The second movement shows the overcoming of stress and uncertainty in a movement of tranquility and song. It is Beethoven with a Schubertian lyricism. The music is based on a flowing, and singing legato theme which is repeated and varied many times over the course of a lengthy reflective movement. It is as if Beethoven is singing to himelf. The singing theme pervades this movement, which reaches an extraordinary moment of peace and sublimity in the short figuration of its ending.
Listners wanting to get to know or revisit the Beethoven sonatas will enjoy these three remarkable and varied works performed by Idil Biret.