Living legend of the piano Murray Perahia records two benchmark sonatas by Beethoven for the first time in his career. Long renowned for his performances of this composer, Perahia’s brand new recording pairs together two of the most radically ground-breaking of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, in a release that is sure to be a crown jewel of the Beethoven discography.
This unusual grouping presumably represents the first instalment of Perahia's planned Urtext edition of the complete sonata series.Opening with the "Piano Sonata No 12 in A-flat major, Opus 26", one is immediately struck by Perahia's poised, stately progress through the opening movement. The more animated second movement – unusually, a scherzo, Beethoven effectively turning the sonata form on its head – sets up the dirge-like final movement, the Funeral March For a Dead Hero. The two Opus 14 Sonatas (No 9 in E major, and No 10 in G major) are earlier, shorter, and simpler, the former boasting a particularly pleasing melodic motif and repetitive form.
Decca's five-CD set Ultimate Beethoven is a respectable beginner's introduction to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven because it presents his greatest masterworks in complete performances by major artists. Where some other collections present only short, thematic excerpts or single movements taken from larger works, obliging the listener to put in additional effort to hear the whole compositions, this set leaves nothing incomplete. Central to Beethoven's output are his symphonies, and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor; the Symphony No. 6 in F major, "Pastoral"; and the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, "Choral" have long been regarded as essential works.
One of the great cycles. Of the hundred or so available recorded cycles (out of about one hundred and fifteen or so), this rates as one of the best. In better sound than either the DG stereo cycle and the live King International cycle, Kempff's style is more poetic and less intense and fiery than others. Whatever Kempff may give away in terms of speed, power, and precision, he makes up for in other ways
A stunning 12-CD box set, Beethoven Unbound, will be released to mark the completion of Llŷr Williams’ monumental Beethoven cycle at Wigmore Hall and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) – recorded live at Wigmore Hall over three years and nine recitals.
Listening to Murray Perahia's 2002 recordings of Schubert's last three piano sonatas, one is reminded all over again how great the works are, how dramatic and heroic the C minor is, how lyrical and passionate the A major is, and how morbid and sublime the B flat major is. Unfortunately, one is also reminded all over again of how limited an interpreter Perahia is, how he can play the notes of the C minor but miss their depths, how he can sing the melodies of the A major but miss their beauty, and how he can keep to the tempos of the B flat major but miss their transcendental profundity.
Perahia’s immaculate technique, stylistic surety, and classical symmetry are remarkably consistent. While his tone is always singing and rounded, lyrical melodies and decorative passages alike convey a slight diamond-like edge to the peak of crescendos or an emphatic accent. This helps achieve an attractive fusion of unruffled poise and dramatic tension. You hear this quite readily in the B-flat K. 456 concerto ‘s first movement, or in the carefully pedaled trills and restatement of the main theme in K. 595’s heavenly Larghetto, also sampled here. Perahia’s symbiotic musical rapport with Radu Lupu in the two-piano concerto and the two-piano version of the concerto for three pianos should not go unmentioned.– Jed Distler
The concerto performances here have been available in a number of guises over the years, and have rarely been out of the catalogue. In their last incarnation they were coupled with the other items from Perahia’s later, digital solo disc, namely the Variations sérieuses, Op.54 and the famous Rondo Capriccioso, Op.14, as well as the Prelude and Fugue that’s here again. The powers-that-be at Sony must have decided that the Piano Sonata represents better value, and it is certainly a very substantial piece, making a well-filled re-issue.