Beethoven - Piano Sonatas Vol.3
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Cat No: ONYX4115
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 13th January 2014
WorksPiano Sonata no.15 in D major, op.28 'Pastorale'
Piano Sonata no.16 in G major, op.31 no.1
Piano Sonata no.21 in C major, op.53 'Waldstein'
ArtistsJonathan Biss (piano)
Volume 3 of Jonathan Biss’s acclaimed cycle of the Beethoven sonatas contains two works from his year of experiment and innovation, 1801 - op.28 ‘Pastorale’ and the somewhat overlooked op.31/1. The third sonata on this disc is one of the most famous of the 32 – the ‘Waldstein’, composed in 1803, is a work of life affirming spirit and energy.
"I would like to be around when he gets to the end of his pilgrimage, for this is a marvellously promising beginning by one of the most thoughtful and technically accomplished pianists of the younger generation" - BBC Music Magazine on Vol.1
"(this) extremely desirable disc…so infectious is Biss’s love for these works, so envious his technique, that how ever many versions of them you have, you need to add this one" - BBC Music Magazine on Vol.2
The Europadisc Review
Jonathan Biss’s cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas on the Onyx label goes from strength to strength with this third volume. In his intelligent, insightful booklet notes, Biss points out that the three sonatas on this latest disc were written within the space of just four years, yet they could hardly be more contrasted. The ‘main’ work for most listeners will be the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata, Op. 53; yet the other two – the ‘Pastorale’, Op. 28, and the G major Sonata, Op. 31 no. 1 – are clearly no lesser works in Biss’s opinion, and that comes across in every bar of his marvellously detailed performances.
In the ‘Pastorale’, it is the subtlety of Biss’s approach that one relishes most, the bar-to-bar savouring of textures, the delicacy of touch and keenness of response. There is no lack of humour in the Scherzo, with its buzzing arpeggio figures, and the clarity of Biss’s restrained pedalling ensures that the pastoral element in the rest of the work is vivid, never soft-focus. The dynamic detail that is never far from the surface is brilliantly suggested.
Op. 31 no. 1 is too often overlooked, even within its own Opus, yet it is a work of sparkling humour and wit, and Biss clearly relishes this. The ‘joke’ in the first movement – the two hands ever out-of-sync – is conveyed with just the right degree of twinkle, and Biss is also sensitive to the operatic pastiche of the Adagio while clearly relishing every gorgeous turn of phrase. The gentle finale is lovingly played, the witticisms of the final pages once again perfectly judged. Biss talks of the need to rescue this sonata from ‘obscurity’; if any recording will succeed, it is this.
Rounding off proceedings is a performance of the ‘Waldstein’ that is remarkable for its subtlety as it is for its dynamism. With Beethoven’s dynamics often not rising above the level of piano, much of the energy that is too often hammered out should actually come from deftness of articulation, and Biss rises to the challenge splendidly. The contained energy is palpable and, as with the other works on this disc, the timings are deceptive, with Biss’s clear handling of filigree detail making the traversal feel livelier than the clock might suggest. He imparts a wonderful sense of mystery to the Introduction that precedes the Rondo, against which the latter feels all the more rapt. Indeed, this account of the finale comes across as one of the most ecstatic recordings for a very long time, played with a remarkable delicacy of touch.
With demonstration-quality recording (made in the Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth) combining warmth, depth and detail, this is a simply stunning disc. More, please!
1Piano Sonata no.15 in D, op.28 - I.Allegro
2Piano Sonata no.15 in D, op.28 - II.Andante
3Piano Sonata no.15 in D, op.28 - III.Scherzo
4Piano Sonata no.15 in D, op.28 - IV.Rondo
5Piano Sonata no.16 in G, op.31 no.1 - I.Allegro Vivace
6Piano Sonata no.16 in G, op.31 no.1 - II.Adagio Grazioso
7Piano Sonata no.16 in G, op.31 no.1 - III.Rondo
8Piano Sonata no.21 in C, op.53 - I.Allegro Con Brio
9Piano Sonata no.21 in C, op.53 - II.Adagio Molto
10Piano Sonata no.21 in C, op.53 - III.Rondo
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