Vladimir Feltsman

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas

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These performances come from a group of several Beethoven recordings made by Russian-born pianist Vladimir Feltsman for the Music Master label in the years after his arrival in the U.S.; this set was reissued in 2010 by Nimbus. Feltsman can rumble a piano with the best of them in the likes of Mussorgsky, but here you don't get Russian-school fireworks at all. These are dry readings of Beethoven's last three sonatas, with little interpretation placed between the music and listener. Feltsman himself even says in the interview given in the booklet of the Nimbus release (in English only) that "this music doesn't need to be interpreted. I prefer the word 'realization.'" If that's what you want, check these versions out; although Feltsman does little to add to the collective performance tradition that has grown up around these rather mysterious pieces. The sheer technical precision contributes a solid foundation and a natural sense of line; the first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op 109, has a relaxed feel that makes it sound almost like an opening improvisation. The difficulties in the variation finales of the Op. 109 Sonata and of the Piano Sonata No. 32 in C major are surmounted with ease and with a clarity that reveals inner details. Rarely, though, does Feltsman try to put a personal stamp on the music. The instrumental recitative in the slow movement of the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A major, Op. 110, is taken basically as written. Generally the tendency in late Beethoven to feel that the composer is aiming at the limits of existing instruments is resisted; the word for Feltsman's attitude here is aplomb, which is not usually a concept much deployed in connection with the late Beethoven sonatas, or with Beethoven in general. But that doesn't mean it's invalid.

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