Concert Review

Beethoven Sonatas Op. 90, 101 & 106. Peter Donohoe (piano) RNCM 3rd March 2000

Peter Donohoe continued his ambitious cycle of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas as part of The Royal Northern College of Music's 1999/2000 Celebrity Recital Series. Donohoe commenced his arduous journey through Beethoven's thirty-two sonatas at the RNCM back in September; tonight's performance was the penultimate in the series.

The RNCM was a fitting venue as Manchester-born Peter Donohoe studied there with Derek Wyndham before moving to Paris to study with Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod. His career took off with his success at the 1982 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and he has since developed a distinguished career in Europe, USA, the Far East and Australasia.

Undoubtedly, Beethoven's piano sonatas contain some of the greatest music ever written for the instrument. They have influenced and shaped the keyboard style of many later composers; they remain original and challenging to the performer and listener alike.

Tonight we heard three of later sonatas commencing with the Sonata in E minor Op.90, this two-movement work a gentle introduction to an evening that would end very differently.

The A Major Op.101 followed; more in the style of a fantasia rather than a sonata 'proper', it is a good example of how Beethoven adapted the form of the sonata to his own compositional agenda. It's finale is wonderful: a synthesis of sonata and fugue whose main subject is not dissimilar to the opening melody of The Beatles' 'Hey Jude'. This performance was weighty, yet controlled. Donohoe is a pleasure to observe, unlike others who sway and flail their arms about, he is a reserved musician content to let the audience concentrate on the music rather than the musician. The evening ended with a assured performance of the Sonata in B flat major Op. 106, the Hammerklavier. Much has been written about this sonata; it is one of the most challenging piano works ever composed, technically and musically. Consequently, it is 'hard work' for both the performer and the audience. At over forty-five minutes in length and containing one of the longest slow movements in the repertoire (it is in itself longer than many of the composer's whole sonatas), the Hammerklavier is truly a tour de force and was performed here with the intellectual commitment so necessary for its success.

Ailís Ní Ríain

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