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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 23 in f minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata) [21:37]
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op.53 (Waldstein) [22:11]
Piano Sonata No. 17 in d minor, Op. 31, No. 2, (Der Sturm) [18:49]
Fazil Say, piano
Recorded in June 2005 in Studio Tibor Varga, Sion, Switzerland.
NAÏVE V5016 [62:37]

In the booklet, pianist Fazil Say states that he has waited for many years to program the sonatas of Beethoven as he regards them as the pinnacle of the repertoire and did not want to perform them until he was good and ready. In the same essay, he quotes Beethoven: "inner deafness is far worse than deafness itself," going on to say that he has recorded here works that he could sing "with his inner voice." Would God that he might have kept his inner voice inside, as his humming à la Glenn Gould and Keith Jarrett is extremely detrimental to his otherwise exciting and forceful playing.

That Mr. Say has chosen three of Beethovenís most popular and over-recorded piano sonatas also leads one to wonder whether it was his own "inner-voice" that he was following, or the outer voice of the Naïve marketing department. That aside, these are invigorating, vibrant readings, Mr. Say has ample technique and in spite of his moaning and groaning, he plays with great sensitivity and poise.

He rips through the Appasionata with abandon, and although he takes things plenty fast, there is never a sense of breathlessness. One gets the feeling that he is in total control and that the music is not at risk of getting away from him. He handles the slow movement with grace, never becoming melodramatic.

I was particularly impressed with his Waldstein, especially the last movement which is often played too slowly for my tastes. Say makes the grand main theme sing amply enough, yet we still get some of the thrill of virtuosity that is inherent in the movement.

By the time we get to the third sonata, I noticed a certain sameness in the bright tone that Say produces from the piano. Especially when listening through headphones, which I often do, the edginess of the sound, particularly in the upper registers can become a bit laborious. Nonetheless, it is exciting playing, accurate and expressive and is worth more than just a casual listen. I do so hope that in the future, Mr. Say might consider keeping the vocal obbligati out of the picture.

Kevin Sutton


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