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CD: Crotchet

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26 (1801) [18:25]
Piano Sonata No. 9 in E major, Op. 14/1 (1798-99) [12:59]
Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14/2 (1798-99) [14:51]
Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastoral’ (1801) [24:21]
Murray Perahia (piano)
rec. Saal 1, Rundfunkzentrum, Berlin, Germany, 2008 (?). DDD
SONY/BMG 88697 326462 [71:04]
Experience Classicsonline

Murray Perahia has certainly come a long way since winning the Leeds Piano Competition in 1972. Looking back on Perahia’s career there have been some really magnificent recordings. My two particular favourite Perahia discs from my collection have been the outstanding recitals:
• the Chopin selection that feature the four Ballades and a selection of Nocturnes; Etudes; Mazurkas etc. Recorded in Switzerland in 1994 for Sony Classical on SK 64399, and
• a selection of 15 of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words; Bach/Busoni four Choral Preludes and Schubert/Liszt four Song Transcriptions. The disc was recorded in 1997 at New Jersey, USA and 1998 in London on Sony Classical SK 66511.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for the New York City-born pianist. Murray Perahia faced a professional catastrophe when a finger injury looked like ending his career. Sometimes one grows stronger through adversity and Perahia’s enforced absence from the keyboard has clearly enabled him to relish his second opportunity as a concert pianist.
Perahia’s recent come-back has seen him adopt a higher profile. There has been his new release of J.S. Bach’s Partitas 2, 3 and 4 on Sony Classical 88697226952 also a reissue of the complete English Suites on a double set for Sony Classical 88697310502. Few can forget Perahia’s re-appearance, after an absence of twenty years, at the 2008 BBC Proms playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Major with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Bernard Haitink.
This Sony release from Perahia comprises Beethoven's Piano Sonatas 9, 10, 12 and 15. I understand the disc is the first volume in Perahia’s projected Urtext edition of the complete Beethoven sonata series.
The first score on the disc is the four movement Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26 from 1801 that Beethoven dedicated to his patron Prince Karl Lichnowsky. The generally lyrical score opens with a splendid Andante a theme and variations played by Perahia with authority, grace and beauty and I loved the Scherzo so brisk and buoyant. In the outer sections the solemn third movement funeral march ‘For the death of a hero’ is given an interpretation of a respectfully solemn tread. Perahia is exhilarating in the central section at 2:01-3:00 providing explosions and fireworks perhaps evocative of guns and cannons. I was struck by the sheer energy and confidence of Perahia’s playing of the burbling closing Allegro.
Both opus 14 scores were composed in 1798-99 and dedicated to Baroness Josefa von Braun whose husband was director of the Royal and Imperial Theatre in Vienna. The Piano Sonata No. 9 in E major, Op. 14/1 is an unassuming score cast in three movements. I enjoyed the poise and vigour from Perahia in the opening Allegro who has chosen to convey a rather sombre and dark interpretation of the central movement, marked Allegretto. Perahia brings out the light and varied dance-like rhythms of the cordial final movement Rondo - Allegro comodo that includes an unexpected display of vigour at the conclusion.
The good-humoured Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14/2 also follows the three movement design. I marvel at Perahia’s exuberance in the opening Allegro and in the contrasting central movement he accentuates the march-like theme and provides a bright and sparkling performance of the miniature set of variations. Perahia in the Scherzo, finale brings a bustling and boisterous conclusion to the score.
The generally sunny Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastoral’ is dedicated to Count Joseph von Sonnenfels. It was Beethoven’s publisher Cranz of Hamburg who allotted the title of ‘Pastoral’ owing to the even-tempered manner of the four movement score. Perahia conveys glowing, autumnal tones of nature to the opening Allegro and buoyant and crisp rhythms to the contrasting stately march of the Andante. I especially enjoyed Perahia’s mischievousness in the brisk Scherzo and the splendid variety of moods and energies that Perahia communicates to the attractively rustic Sonata- Rondo, Finale.
Recorded in Berlin at the Rundfunkzentrum the close sound is vividly clear and well balanced. The essay in the booklet notes is interesting, yet strangely, I could find no information on the Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastoral’. I also noticed that the composition date of the group of four sonatas, Opp. 26, 27 and 28 is given in the text as 1831. This should be 1801 as Beethoven died in 1827.
These marvellous Beethoven interpretations from Murray Perahia feel so natural and fresh, combined with an astonishing level of assurance. This recital is a splendid achievement and deserves to be in every Beethoven collection.
Michael Cookson


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