Schubert sonatas

Newest Releases

Piano solo and duet
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

Free classical music concerts by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.


Moravec - Twelfth Night Recital
15%off £17.21 (until Dec 7)

Katerina Englichová - harp
15%0ff £10.83 (until Dec 7)

  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo
  • Stellar debut<br>piano recital
  • Clarinet transcriptions Jonathan Cohler
  • Jonathan Cohler & Claremont Trio
  • French clarinet masterpieces
  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo

Sibelius Symphonies Maazel
4CDs + Blu-ray audio
Special Price £36.75

RVW A Sea Symphony - Elder

Shostakovich Symphony 10 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem

Dvorak Opera Premiere

Grieg, Mendelssohn sonatas




Would you like a hyperlinked weekly summary of the CDs we have reviewed?

Click for further details

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Prima voce
Red Priest
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Stan Metzger
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

cover image

CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata No.30 in E major Op.109 (1821) [21:21]
Sonata No.31 in A flat major Op.110 (1822) [21:07]
Sonata No.32 in C minor Op.111 (1822) [27:08]
Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano)
rec. Ehemaliges Ackerhaus der Abtei Marienmünster 30 October - 1 November 2009. DDD.

Experience Classicsonline

Bethoven’s last three piano sonatas are a gift from Heaven. Each one of them is a diamond; but together they form a crown that has no parallel in all music. The music goes from gentlest breezes to wildest storms, from joy to despair, from philosophy to dance. This is the wisdom of the heart. And sometimes, when I listen to these sonatas, I have a feeling that I understand better how this entire world is turning around.

It is curious that the new recording by Elisabeth Leonskaja is one of the most masculine performances of these sonatas that I have heard. The playing is serious, no-nonsense, and the music has weight. Don’t get me wrong: there is no rough banging, or unnatural over-dramatizing. The fast middle movements of Opp.109 and 110, and the tempestuous first part of Op.111 are marvelous, executed with great concentration and white-hot intensity. But in all the parts of all the three sonatas my feelings about the performance are best expressed by one word: heavy. Yes, I can also call it full-voiced, well articulated, deep, and it all will be very true. Still - heavy. The music may have come from Heaven, but it cannot raise us there.

There is a lot to marvel at in Leonskaja’s interpretation. From first note to last, she sculpts the sound, forming and shaping it, never losing the control. Listen, for example, to how she prepares the first climax of Op.109: everything is measured, but at the same time as natural as the sunrise.

Leonskaja’s Op.109 starts as a song without words. A lot of thought is felt behind every sound. The lengths of notes and pauses seem to be handpicked with special care. The black tornadoes of the Prestissimo are pictured with contrast and passion. The image is very clear: you won’t find any of the “dirt” that mars this movement in some other performances, where the pianist gets overwhelmed by the notes! The Variations flow freely and leisurely. Leonskaja takes time to show us their many faces, as if allowing us to marvel at the play of light in the facets of a crystal. All voices are distinctly clear, and the last variation obtains an almost organ-like density and sonority.

Out of the three sisters, Op.110 is the one that loves to sing. Leonskaja opens its first movement with a real cantabile, and the upper voice rings its little bells beautifully. However, midway through the movement the pianist reduces the fire on the stove: the momentum is lost, the picture flattens. Interest is rekindled in the Allegro molto, where Leonskaja emphasizes all the eccentricities and the sharp corners. The music becomes quite unhinged, and its wild angularity acquires a sinister glow. The last movement is a sequence of heterogeneous episodes, reticent Adagios and powerful Fugues. The tension rises and leads to a jubilant bell-ringing climax. The slow episodes are somber, almost ascetic. Beethoven at this point did not need heavy machinery to make the music expressive, and this is an example of a-lot-in-a-little. Leonskaja keeps things simple, does not press hard, and her rubato is very flexible and alive. She is also splendid in the fugal episodes, projecting a sense of direction, structure, and goal.

The first movement of Op.111 is for me the high point of this disc. Leonskaja plays as if possessed by Richter’s spirit. Torrents of dark energy clash and swirl. This movement is the quintessence of all the Appassionatas Beethoven created before, and Leonskaja, with her fingers of steel, strikes sparks out of the keyboard! I was surprised by her interpretation of the second part, the great set of variations. The colors are bright, the fires high, there is pressure and drive, and the piano sings full-voice where usually we hear a hushed awe. I miss that luminous dream, that light-in-the-afterlife feeling. Where Solomon, with all his finger slips, gave me Mahlerian catharsis, there Leonskaja just told me about it.

So, on the whole, my feelings are mixed. The sound engineering by Werner Dabringhaus is great, as usual, even though I used a regular player and not an SACD machine. The 1901 Steinway has a full, solid voice, and is very responsive to graduations of touch. There is not a single trace of the old-piano “hollowness”, although there are a couple of shrill, unpleasantly ringing notes in the middle episode of Op.110. II.

If you love these sonatas and cannot get enough of them, then this disc will show a very valuable view, well worth having, in addition to more traditional interpretations. But if you are looking for your first and only set of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, I would advise you to seek elsewhere: some decisions that were made here are questionable.

Oleg Ledeniov

























Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.