Mstation Classical Reviews

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Fri, 30 Jun 2006

Beethoven Piano

Piano Sonatas, Opp. 109, 110 and 111
Mitsuko Uchida – piano	
CD, Philips

These piano sonatas are particularly special, as they are the last three of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, which he began in 1795, and ended in 1822 (the year in which he died). I know we’ve all heard it before, but I still find it more than incredible that he composed these sonatas well after he had lost the ability to hear completely!!! In contrast to the first sonata, which is clearly set in classical form and convention (yet with his own style clearly emerging, even then…), the late sonatas are slightly bonkers. We can see the stage set for composers such as Schumann in Beethoven’s numerous performance directions at the beginnings of the movements, often in German (e.g. “Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung” – Songlike, with the deepest expression). The full range (and beyond, at the time!) of the keyboard is used, while the tonality and form is being stretched to its limits.

Mitsuko Uchida is justly well-respected, particularly for her Mozart recordings, and this recording are certainly no exception. Her tone is beautiful and brings off the nobility and elegance of Beethoven’s sound world with great sympathy. If you follow the score, she has clearly given great thought to all of Beethoven’s markings and directions. Perhaps if we compare this to the recordings of Schnabel , it probably doesn’t share quite the same intense and deeply personal understanding (which in my opinion is probably more important) but it certainly is more obedient and accurate. (M.North)

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