I've been following this series pretty closely, having reviewed nine previous discs in the survey, which contained the symphonies in Liszt's transcriptions, piano concertos and various sonatas. This is one of Biret's finest offerings in this multi-cycle event. Her reading of the Sixth Sonata here is simply splendid. I think her rendition of the finale may be unsurpassed. Perhaps only Arrau grasped the humor and joy as deftly as Biret. Brendel, whose Beethoven over the course of three sonata cycles has been generally quite excellent, has played this movement a little too stiffly, the humor getting lost in a breathless rush.
Biret's #12 may be paced a little too deliberately at the outset, but the ensuing variations are played with about all the spirit and color the listener could want. The Scherzo is both charming and sassy and the Funeral March dark and powerfully atmospheric. The finale is a mixture of effervescence and mischief, deliciously brought off by Biret's multi-nuanced dynamics and her kaleidoscopic colorations.
Her Pastoral Sonata is bright and spirited, with an infectiously jaunty second movement (Andante) whose sadness comes across with a sort of dark humor. The Scherzo and Rondo are played with great subtlety, the latter panel mixing serenity and joy in one of the most convincing performances you're likely to encounter.
The sound is excellent throughout. Highest recommendations.
Copyright © 2010, Robert Cummings.