To run parallel with his complete Haydn series, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is now starting a complete, chronological cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. This first set covers the sonatas composed in the 1790s. Two further volumes, of middle and late sonatas, will follow in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
This important set contains the sixteen Beethoven sonatas that Wilhelm Kempff recorded for Grammophon in Germany between 1940 and 1943. Several are reissued here for the first time since their original release on 78rpm discs and none are currently available elsewhere. The sound is excellent for the period and all reveal the young Kempff at his best, in performances that compliment his later thoughts. The release is the companion of two previous APR releases of early Kempff Beethoven recordings the late sonatas (APR6018) and piano concertos 1, 3, 4 & 5 (APR6019), both of which received excellent reviews and were amongst APRs best sellers.
Hélène Grimaud's performances on this disc a coupling of Beethoven "Emperor" Piano Concerto with his Piano Sonata in A major, Op. 101 are truly fantastic. Her technique is essentially untouchable and her tone is surprisingly colorful. And, as in her previous recordings, her interpretations are outrageous. With Vladimir Jurowski and the Dresden Staatskapelle in the Concerto, Grimaud is unafraid to do whatever she wants with balance and tempos.
For the casual listener, there are two impediments to enjoying this disc. First, the works are transcriptions of orchestral works for chamber ensembles, and second, both transcriptions are played on a light-toned fortepiano and cat-gutted stringed instruments. But for the dedicated listener who knows and loves Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 4 and who accepts and enjoys period instruments, this disc will be pure enjoyment.
The presence of the young Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the decision by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes to conduct it from the keyboard may lead you to expect a smaller-scale performance than listeners actually get here, in this second album of Andsnes' "Beethoven Journey." Certainly this isn't keyboard-pounding Beethoven. The slow movement of the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, has none of the giant-stomping-around quality it often received in golden-age recordings.