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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonatas #8-11

  • Sonata #8 "Pathétique" in C minor, Op. 13 (1798)
  • Sonata #9 in E Major, Op. 14 #1 (1799)
  • Sonata #10 in G Major, Op. 14 #2 (1799)
  • Sonata #11, Op. 22 (1800)
Stephen Kovacevich, piano
EMI 56586
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Finally, another installment in what I consider the finest cycle of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas. I have been eagerly awaiting each issue since being captured by the first disc. This is early Beethoven, and except for the well-known "Pathétique" I was not familiar with the other pieces. As is my wont, I began by having the music on in the background as I did house chores, etc. My initial reactions by using this method are usually a pretty good indication how I am likely to react when sitting down and doing serious listening. Well, I kept thinking that this was some fine pianism and I was interested in a deeper swim.

I specifically compared the "Pathétique" with Brendel's earlier Philips cycle recording. After having listened to Kovacevich for several days, I looked over my notes. It indicated that this was more Romantic than Classical in style. The sound was deep, rich and resonant. Kovacevich's usual liquid touch was fascinating. Then I listened to Brendel. What a difference! Brendel is more Classic in approach the sound dryer. In fact there was such a difference that they almost sounded the pianists were playing different music! Brendel etches things a bit more clearly, but to my ears Brendel is also leaving the emotion in the dust. Kovacevich repeatedly impressed me while doing more A/B comparisons. The sound on the disc is fantastic.

What else can I say? The other items are just as Romantically interpreted and I like that. If you don't, be warned. Meanwhile, back for another spin of the platter.

Copyright © 1998, Robert Stumpf II