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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 Tempest (1802) [22:02]
Franz Xavier Schnyder von WARTENSEE (1786-1868)
Sonata for piano in C major (c.1814) [31:35]
Anton LISTE (1772-1832)
Grande Sonate for piano in A major [55:01]
Sona Shaboyan (piano)
rec. May 2013, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouthshire
GUILD GMCD 7405-06 [53:38 + 55:01]

There’s an interesting historical-publishing conceit being pursued in this release. The Swiss publisher Hans Georg Nägeli (1773-1836) brought out a music series celebrating leading composers of the day. ‘Repertoire pour Clavecinistes’ included the three works that form this three-sonata 2-CD release from Guild.
The disc starts, as it surely should, with the Tempest sonata, the only one to have survived in the repertoire. Sona Shaboyan, the Armenian-born pianist who has done so much to propagandise for unknown composers from her homeland – Oehms released ‘Piano Music from Armenia’ to some acclaim – turns her musical focus onto these three sonatas. In the case of the Beethoven she plays with enviable fluency, vesting the music with a strong sense of character, and ensuring that the clarity she finds, not least in the central Adagio, does not limit the refined expressive effect elsewhere.
Real interest will cling to the brace of sonatas that accompany it. Franz Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee was born in Lucerne in 1786. He moved to Zurich in 1810 to study under Nägeli himself, though this didn’t prove possible due to time pressures. That said, Nageli remained a supporter of von Wartensee. The younger man eventually travelled to Vienna and there presented Beethoven with a copy of the third sonata in Guild’s set, that of Anton Liste. Wartensee’s sonata is a very accomplished piece, well laid out, with lyric and indeed Beethovenian influence jostling side by side. Very unusually he writes a waltz in the third movement. In the long finale he integrates a fugal passage, to which he later returns, and these passages show his technical accomplishment as well as a certain individuality of approach.
The sonata that Wartensee presented to Beethoven is by a long distance the longest of the three here. It clocks in at an impressive 55 minutes and there are a few allusions to the music of his near-contemporary, Beethoven. The most explicit comes in the slow movement and is a reference to none other than the Tempest sonata itself. Elsewhere this is a strongly characterised work, bursting with a Schubertian sense of melody. It also sports a number of harmonies that may well have appeared remarkable at the time. The finale is, by some way, the longest movement – 20 minutes to the slow movement’s eight - and is a technically demanding, musically challenging span.
Shaboyan and Guild have given us an excellent twofer here, constructed artfully and relevantly, well recorded and documented. Above all the music is played with requisite sensitivity but also panache and drama.
Jonathan Woolf

Masterwork Index: Beethoven piano sonata 17