Schubert sonatas

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonatas: No. 16 in G, Op. 31 No. 1 (1802) [26:20]; No. 28 in A, Op. 101 (1816) [21:15]; No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 (1822) [29:04].
David Korevaar (piano)
rec. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Buffalo, New York, May 2006. DDD
IVORY CLASSICS 77004 [76:47]
Experience Classicsonline

Korevaar’s disc of Brahms Variations (Ivory Classics 74004) was a rather lacklustre affair, if entirely satisfactory in terms of pianism and engineering. I found his Ravel offering on MSR rather more impressive, back in January 2006. His Beethoven sits more with the Brahms disc evoking mixed reactions from this reviewer.

Korevaar uses a Kawai piano, which is, typically, rather bright-sounding. Interestingly, Korevaar conferred with Earl Wild before setting down these interpretations for posterity. Although we are not privy to the exact nuances of Wild’s input, Korevaar does tell us that his readings changed on a deep level. Wild is not really known for his Beethoven - the exchange was, I am sure, fascinating and it would have been instructive to learn more. Wild’s Beethoven is available on the present label, Ivory Classics: see Jonathan Woolf’s review of Wild’s “Hammerklavier”.

The First sonata we hear is the A major, Op. 101 which Korevaar describes as “a study for the late period”. He is very good at projecting the delicate ambiguity of the first movement. The second announces its arrival in decisive, but not explosive, style. Pollini is magnificent in this movement in his famous DG reading. Korevaar is, however, excellent in delineating the finale, a movement that can appear rather loose in the wrong hands. He maintains the momentum splendidly.

The very last sonata ends the disc. There is drama in Korevaar’s opening, but it is not of the earth-shaking variety. The contrast between this and the placatory repeated chords is not fully honoured. Korevaar’s Op. 111 seems to seek to eschew the characteristic C-minor Beethoven persona, despite his booklet notes indicating that his intent is otherwise. Still, there is much to admire in the clarity of finger-work and line. The second movement offers the finest we hear on the entire disc. He honours fully the slow, organic growth of the movement while realising the more outgoing moments to the full. In this way, this becomes a satisfying statement, replete with huge contrasts. The music-box passage, around 12-13:00, in fact offers a diametric opposite to the opening of the sonata itself. Arrau (Philips) remains a prime recommendation here.

The Sonata sandwiched in between these two late offerings is the G major, Op. 31 No. 1. The second movement is particularly impressive, as Korevaar’s low-pedal strategy pays dividends. The musical argument is no less effective or profound for this decision. The bass trills towards the end of the extended slow movement are particularly impressive. Korevaar in his notes makes great things of the operatic nature of this movement, and his playing reflects this accurately. The rondo finale is generally gentle, pointing directly towards Schubert, although the helter-skelter wit of the closing bars could only have come from Beethoven’s pen.

Colin Clarke 


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