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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 4
Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10 No. 1 [19:55]
Sonata No. 6 in F major, Op. 10 No. 2 [14:20]
Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10 No. 3 [25:15]
Sonata No. 15 "Pastorale" in D major, Op. 28 [26:12]
Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49 No. 1 [8:31]
Sonata No. 20 in G major, Op. 49 No. 2 [8:36]
Sonata No. 26 "Lebewohl" in E flat major, Op. 81a [17:01]
Sonata No. 30 in E major Op. 109 [18:05]
Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 [19:10]
Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 [26:58]
Paul Lewis (piano)
rec. 2007 (?)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC901909-11 [3 CDs: 59:30 + 60:30 + 64:13]
Experience Classicsonline

I heard the young English pianist Paul Lewis play an all-Beethoven recital a few years ago and it was one of those concerts that live in the memory. Next year he is returning to Australia to play the Beethoven Concerto No. 2 with the Sydney Symphony, and I will be there.
This final volume in the traversal of the pinnacle of piano sonatas won the 2008 Gramophone Magazine Record of the Year: a richly deserved award, though I don’t feel that it is any more outstanding than its three predecessors. Perhaps the judges thought along the same lines as the Oscar judges in giving the final Lord of the Rings movie the Best Movie Oscar: this is for the whole set.
I don’t intend in going into detail about the ten works that comprise this set: apart from anything else, it would become repetitive. There is only so many times that superlatives can be used before they lose their impact.
Instead, I will give you a series of adjectives that I believe characterise the Beethoven of Paul Lewis: poetic, personal, non-idiosyncratic, assured, thoughtful, controlled, graceful, flowing, passionate. Lest you think that it might be too “nice” or smooth for Beethoven, let me assure that there is power and strength when needed, but not for its own sake. These performances are about the music, not about the pianist.
Pick your favourite, listen to your favourite recording of it, and then listen to Paul Lewis – I’m positive that you will be impressed.
I downloaded this recording (and the others in the series) in mp3 format from emusic, so I can’t really comment on the sound quality in absolute terms. However, I believe that the quality on CD would be very good, as there is nothing to complain about in the compressed format. Downloading also means I am short on recording details and can’t comment on what is apparently a fine essay in the booklet.
Volume 1 of this series has received two very complimentary reviews on Musicweb – from Kevin Sutton (a January 2006 Recording of the Month) and David Dunsmore – but the next volumes, featuring the very famous sonatas, seemed to have been missed. I can assure you that they are equally outstanding – this is truly a Beethoven cycle for the ages.
David J Barker
Paul Lewis has written an article for The Guardian newspaper available online about his Beethoven project.


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