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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonatas II

  • Sonata #12 in A Flat Major, Op. 26 (1800)
  • Sonata #19 in G minor, Op. 49/1 (1796)
  • Sonata #20 in G Major, Op. 49/2 (1796)
  • Sonata #30 in E Major, Op. 109 (1820)
  • Bagatelles, Op. 126 (1824)
Stephen Kovacevich, piano
EMI Classics 56148 67:36
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Let me begin this review with a comment about the insert notes for this series. Robert Dearling has written some excellent notes that will guide the listener into the music even if you are musically illiterate. I do not know who he is, but he will provide you with insights historical as well as musical. They have been particularly helpful to me as I approach many of these works for the first time.

And such is the case here. While I have some recordings of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas, they mostly are the standard ones: Moonlight, Hammerklavier, etc. When I do have reference points I have made mention of them. In this case, however, everything is new to me.

What we have here is more of the same from Kovacevich. And that is G-RRRR-EAT!! (As Tony would say). The sound on the recordings is just right. The fingering, just right. The delights abound.

These are nor typical sonatas. Number 30 has essentially three movements with six variations. Number 12 has 5 variations of the Andante, followed by a Scherzo, Funeral March and then Allegro. Numbers 19 and 20 have only two movements each. I spent many pleasant hours listening to this disc. Sometimes odd notes would find themselves on my pad. Like in the opening bars of #30 I wrote, "Reminds me of Debussy for a moment." God only knows why I wrote that, but that same comment came to mind every other time I listened to it.

At this point in this review, I have not yet read a review of this same disc which is in the November Gramophone. I have been told that the writer did not like this disc. It will be interesting for me to read his reasons. Maybe he has someone else who serves as a touchstone for his listening. All I can say is that I cannot imagine a better, more musical recording. I look forward to listening and learning the sonatas with Kovacevich.

Copyright © 1997, Robert Stumpf II