'From the almost unfeasibly grave introduction to the 'Pathétique' to the torrential...
Andrew McGregor 2003
It was a busy week for Portuguese pianist Artur Pizarro. Not only did he release his first disc of what you might call 'serious' solo piano music; he also began his ambitiousyear-long concert cycle of all Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas at St John's, Smith Square in London.
This cd pulls together four of Beethoven's best-known sonatas: the Pathétique, the Moonlight, the Tempest, and the Appassionata. There's no shortage of recordings of these piano sonatas, so what makes Pizarro stand out from the crowd?
It's curious, but however well you think you know these sonatas, the freshness and incisiveness of Pizarro's playing somehow takes you unawares. From the almost unfeasibly grave Grave introduction to the Pathétique to the torrential outbursts in the finale of the Appassionata, Pizarro shows how well he understands Beethoven - a man prone to fits of temper, depression, and passion - a man with his heart on his sleeve.Pizarro manages to combine these romantic emotional extremes with unusual clarity, bringing out lines that can often be marred and mushed by foggy sustain pedalling. The combination of this almost forensic precision and the warm woody tones of the Blüthner piano Pizarro plays here makes for compulsive listening, and guarantees you'll hear something new and exciting in these performances.
So, Beethoven's four best-loved sonatas - a canny marketing ploy on Pizarro's part? Well, if it is, who can blame him - it's hard to get noticed in this game, especially when you're up against the likes of Emil Gilels, Wilhelm Kempff, and Alfred Brendel, to name just a few. But Pizarro definitely has something special to offer.
He has said that he strives to get to the heart of Beethoven's music, to cut through the veneer, to enable us to hear it as if we'd never heard it before. And in this I think he has succeeded - if you don't already know Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, this is a great place to start - and if you do, you won't be disappointed...
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Mikhail Pletnev: Live at Carnegie Hall
Murray Perahia: Chopin Études
Beethoven Piano Trios