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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Complete Piano Sonatas
Eduardo del Pueyo (piano)
rec. 1976-77, location not given
PAVANE RECORDS ADW7073/81 [9 CDs: 653:17]

Who was Eduardo del Pueyo, you may ask? He was born in Zaragoza, the capital of northeastern Spain's Aragon region in 1905, and died in Brussels in 1986. He was an alumnus of the Madrid Conservatory, where he won a 1st Prize at the age of only fourteen. A year later he relocated to Paris to further his studies. For twelve years he studied composition with Raoul Laparro and Amadeo de Montrichard. In 1927 he gave a commemorative concert to mark the centenary of Beethoven's death, featuring three 'named' sonatas: the Pathétique, Appassionata and Hammerklavier. He later spent four years studying piano with Juana Bosch, a pupil of Marie Jaëll, and consolidated his technique. In 1935 he moved to Brussels and returned to a concert career, becoming something of a Beethoven specialist, performing his first sonata cycle in 1938. His repertoire, however, ranged from Bach to Stravinsky, with a fair smattering of Spanish music. His discography is meagre, containing concertos by Beethoven, Liszt, Ravel (Left Hand) and music by his native composers. It seems that he wasn't a great fan of the recording studio, preferring the 'live' event, and the inspiration he gleaned from an audience. He set down this cycle when he was in his seventies.

The cycle was del Pueyo's last, and to it he brings a lifetime of wisdom and experience. For a man in his seventies, his technique is still very much in fine fettle and can deliver speed and power when required. However, there's much more than mere empty virtuosity. Intelligence, spirituality, a sense of architecture and structure and a probing awareness are all compelling attributes he brings to this rich corpus. To get some indication of profundity, the last three 3 sonatas for me provide the litmus test. Intimate and intense, he truly conveys the spiritual depth of this music, offering a wealth of poetic insights. As with many pianists of his generation he achieves a kaleidoscopic array of tone colours, with sensitive nuancing of light and shade. Voicing of chords, delicate gradations of tone and a rich keyboard sonority all add to the allure. It should also be noted that he takes the repeats.

It's not my intention to discuss every sonata, but to focus on some of the highlights of this wonderful cycle. The Sonata Op 2 No 3 is a virtuosic tour-de-force, which del Pueyo addresses with adept technical skill and authority. The outer movements are excitingly driven, with the Adagio evincing some luminous cantabile playing. The dotted rhythms of the opening of Piano Sonata no. 5 in C minor, Op. 10, No 1 are crisply incisive, with the slow movement offering balm to the ears before the boisterous finale. The Piano Sonata Op. 10 No.3, opens with energy and gusto, but it's in the eloquent Largo e mesto where del Pueyo reaches sublime heights, imbuing the music with melancholy and anguish. After an elegant Menuetto, the Rondo is playful, based on that teasing three-note question.  Emphasizing it's song-like character, there's a notable Schubertian flavor to the second movement of the Op. 90.

The Moonlight Sonata I particularly like. The opening movement is satisfyingly contained. There’s some stunning passagework in the finale, delivered with fire and zeal. The landscape of del Pueyo's Appassionata is etched in starting contrasts. The outer movements are intensely dramatic, separated by a slow movement of telling eloquence. The mood of farewell is vividly portrayed in the first movement of Les Adieux, followed by a tangible sense of loss in the second. The finale exudes joy and celebration at the homecoming. There's some pretty impressive fingerwork in the Prestissimo third movement of the Waldstein. The Hammerklavier is of epic proportions. The first movement has nobility and grandeur. After a rhythmically propulsive Scherzo, the Adagio Sostenuto is exquisitely contoured. To the fugue he brings authority, energy and vigour.

The performances are so consistently fine throughout that it seems rather churlish to find fault. However, I have just two small reservations. The first movement of Sonata No. 11, Op. 22 for me lacks the essential 'con brio' element. It begins ok, then at bar 10 loses momentum for some reason, never fully recovering. My other nit-pick is the opening movement of Sonata No. 28 in A major which seems a little too urgent and glossed over. I compared it with versions by Gilels, Goode and Pollini, who take a more spacious view, more favourable in my opinion.

As I’ve already said, del Pueyo was already in his seventies when he committed this cycle to disc between 1976 and 1977. It was originally issued in stereo by Pavane in 1981 on 14 LPs (ADW 7071/7084), and now has been newly remastered for CD on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the pianist’s death. Although the recording venue isn't given, I have read somewhere that the sonatas were set down at the Conservatory in Belgium, where the pianist taught. The acoustic confers an attractive, warm halo of sound around the music and pleasing sense of intimacy. The piano is brightly voiced, but never overly so. I must commend Pavane Records on their excellent presentation, especially the booklet (in French, English and Spanish). It provides a comprehensive biographical account of the pianist, and there's an array of beautifully produced black and white photographs. The annotations are courtesy of Manuel Maynar, President of the 'Association of friends of Eduardo del Pueyo' and Bertrand de Wouters d'Oplinter, Director of Pavane Records.

On the basis of this compelling release, I hope some of del Pueyo’s deleted discography will make a comeback to the catalogues. He’s certainly a pianist worthy of more attention.

Stephen Greenbank

Full details of contents
CD 1 [73:23]
No. 1 in F minor op. 2 no. 1 (1793-5)
No. 2 in A major op. 2 no. 2 (1794-5)
No. 3 in C major op. 2 no. 3 (1794-5)

CD 2 [77:40]
No. 5 in C minor op. 10 no. 1 (1795-7)
No. 6 in F major op. 10 no. 2 (1796-7)
No. 7 in D major op. 10 no. 3 (1797-8)
No. 19 in G minor op. 49 no. 1 (1797)
No. 20 in G major op. 49 no. 2 (1796)

CD 3 [78:04]
No. 4 in E flat major op. 7 (1796-7)
No. 8 in C minor op. 13 "Pathétique" (1797-8)
No. 9 in E major op. 14 no. 1 (1798)
No. 10 in G major op. 14 no. 2 (1799)

CD 4 [74:34]
No. 11 in B flat major op. 22 (1800)
No. 12 in A flat major op. 26 "Funeral March" (1800-01)
No. 15 in D major op. 28 "Pastorale" (1801)

CD 5 [69:11]
No. 13 in E flat major op. 27 no. 1 (1800-01)
No. 14 in C sharp minor op. 27 no. 2 "Moonlight" (1801)
No. 21 in C major op. 53 "Waldstein" (1803-04)
No. 22 in F major op. 54 (1804)

CD 6 [72:11]
No. 16 in G major op. 31 no. 1 (1802)
No. 17 in D minor op. 31 no. 2 "Tempest" (1802)
No. 18 in E flat major op. 31 no. 3 (1802)

CD 7 [76:57]
No. 23 in F minor op. 57 "Appassionata" (1804-05)
No. 24 in F sharp major op. 78 (1809)
No. 25 in G major op. 79 (1809)
No. 26 in E flat major op. 81A "Les Adieux" (1809-10)
No. 27 in E minor op. 90 (1814)

CD 8 [65:32]
No. 28 in A major op. 101 (1816)
No. 29 in B flat major op. 106 "Hammerklavier" (1817-18)

CD 9 [65:45]
No. 30 in E major op. 109 (1820)
No. 31 in A flat major op. 110 (1821-22)
No. 32 in C minor op. 111 (1821-22)



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