It’s unusual to
collate all four of Weber’s sonatas in this way but it’s certainly
logical. Other series may be progressing along more sedentary
lines – Naxos is releasing Alexander Paley’s edition
of Weber’s piano works on single CDs – but Jan Vermeulen has
the cachet of both an integral set and a recording on fortepiano
as well. This last tends to draw him away from the bulk of competition.
There are the occasional Everests in the discography from under
which louring peaks it’s impossible ever fully to escape – Mewton-Wood
in the First, Moiseiwitsch in the same sonata’s Perpetuum mobile
finale or Cortot, say, in the Second.
said Vermeulen has plenty to say in this repertoire; and even
if early Romanticism doesn’t fit him as well as an arch Romantic
such as Moiseiwitsch then we can still lend an ear to the Dutchman’s
way with Weber. He finds a questing quasi-operatic quality in
the opening of the First Sonata though his instrument doesn’t
yield much in the way of colours in the middle of its range
and he does tend to bang rather more than is good for the music.
I didn’t, maybe as a result, find his slow movement overly sympathetic;
no real cantabile, there are plenty of active incursions to
draw the ear to the ceaseless motion. Less it has to be said
to the lyricism. The instrument doubtless contributes to the
sense of mechanistic, almost motoric momentum in the finale,
which never achieves a classic drama. He plays up the fanfare
opening of the Second but can’t draw one’s ear away from the
too-often discursive writing. As if in compensation the slow
movement has a very driving animation.
certainly plays on the feroce instructions of the Third
as he does – a characteristic by now – the febrile slow movement,
which is determinedly non-legato. The Rondo builds on the themes
attractively and animates some of Vermeulen’s best playing of
this Sonata though I certainly admired more his take on the
Fourth. Here the drive and the melancholy are both detonated,
as is the sense of linear tension in the Minuet and the elegance
and precision of the Andante.
however a recommendation will come down to one’s view of the
fortepiano and its utilisation here. Finding its colouristic
range limited does tend to obscure the music’s greater potential
for romanticised phrasing. Certainly this is worthwhile as an
example of performance practice but there’s no substitute for
Mewton-Wood or Cortot in their various recordings of individual