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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata in E flat major, Op. 31 No. 3 (1801-02) [22:28]
Piano Sonata in B flat major, Op. 106. “Für das Hammerklavier” (1817-18) [41:45]
Earl Wild (piano)
rec. Fernleaf Abbey, Columbus, Ohio, April 1994 (Op.31 No.3) and St Barnabas Church, Finchley, London, February 1984 (Op.106)
IVORY CLASSICS 76001 [64:16]
Experience Classicsonline

Neither of these performances is new. Op. 31 No. 3 was recorded in 1994 and issued on Dell’Arte [0590, subsequently conjoined with Op.22 on CDDBS 7004] whilst the Hammerklavier was taped a decade later for Chesky. Both are imposing, clear sighted, logical and impressive achievements.
Op.31 No.3 or The Hunt finds Wild fully in control of those elements of alternation between pomposo and elegant precision that so animates it. The watchword is clarity throughout and fingerwork is lucid. Wild  avoids mannerisms, rhetorical point making, stylistic over-inflation and extraneous gesture. He simply gets down to the business of music making without fuss. The Scherzo therefore is deftly characterised, sent on its way with rhythmic control, tension generated through purely musical means and no elastic rubati. The finale is smoothly assured, untroubled.
The companion work is again a fount of digital clarity, a paring down of gestures. Wild’s way is not for the heavily philosophic or in any way ponderous, either in terms of tempo or style. He sees these two very different works, in a sense, in a kind of Beethovenian continuum. Naturally the Hammerklavier is an altogether bigger work in every sense but Wild brings to it the same qualities of control, buoyancy, rhythmic engagement and apposite weight that he demonstrated in The Hunt. He brings a rugged, powerful direction to the Scherzo and a non-philosophical sense of linear clarity to the slow movement. His is not at all the kind of performance that, say, Schnabel or Solomon espoused but then the sense of clarity he brings to the Fugue in the finale aligns very well with his conception of the sonata as a whole. It necessarily clarifies and to an extent objectifies things but does so with a necessary sense of struggle, though not physical or digital struggle needless to say. Wild’s mechanism is admirably intact.
The performances have been well served in respect of documentation and presentation and the sound quality is well balanced. If you enjoy readings that are assured in direction, tonally rounded, sympathetically lean and unsentimentalised,  then Wild will fill the bill nicely.
Jonathan Woolf


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