Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works (including the celebrated Missa Solemnis), and songs.
This double-CD release is a second volume in pianist Paavali Jumppanen’s ongoing recording cycle of the Beethoven piano sonatas. This new release contains six piano sonatas: three early Op. 10 sonatas (published in 1798) and three sonatas written between 1804–06 (Opp. 53, 54 & 57). Piano Sonata Op. 53 Waldstein, completed after the 3rd Symphony, was described by Wilhelm von Lenz, an early biographer of Beethoven, as a “heroic symphony for piano.” Piano Sonata Op. 57 Appassionata is undoubtedly Beethoven’s darkest and most aggressive work. The Sonata has been compared to Dante’s Inferno and Shakespeare’s bloodthirsty Macbeth.
Paavali Jumppanen is an internationally esteemed pianist, with a vast performance repertoire spanning from Bach to the Avant-garde. Jumppanen’s performances of the complete cycles of Beethoven’s and Mozart’s Piano Sonatas as well as Beethoven’s concertos and chamber music have won critical acclaim. Jumppanen has collaborated with numerous contemporary composers and has premiered many solo and chamber works for the piano. Of particular note are his recordings of Pierre Boulez’s complete piano sonatas at the request of the composer. This adaptability between musical genres gives a fresh reading of the core classical piano repertoire.
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has specialized in Baroque and Classical music, and her Beethoven is about as delicate as some might expect. But there's a difference between applying delicacy to works that are not conventionally played that way, and applying it to already delicate works. There are two of each here. Hewitt runs counter to type in the early Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/2, and Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10/1. In the Op. 10 work, perhaps a preparatory essay for the tumultuous "Pathétique" sonata that followed in the same key, Hewitt will be underpowered for many. But all is redeemed in the gentler pair, the Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78, and Piano Sonata No. 31 in A major, Op. 110. Hewitt takes moderate tempi in these, infusing a sense of spontaneity into the brief, tightly constructed Op. 78 and opening up the fugal counterpoint in the Op. 110 finale. Hewitt's Bachian training really applies in this work, whose first movement is also particularly raptly, almost mystically done. It's hard to offer a general judgment on this set, but for those buying online, in pieces, know that the last two selections are must-haves.