Olivier Chauzu

Beethoven: Sonates Op. 101, Op 106 "Hammerklavier"

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French-Spanish pianist Olivier Chauzu is notable for having tackled monuments of German repertory as well as music from farther west, and here he takes on two of the most monumental German pieces of all, Beethoven's late Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101, and Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"). He delivers on his promise of showing that these works haven't yet revealed all their secrets, and this recording, made for Calliope in 2010, found new rounds of distribution later on. Are listeners getting "French" Beethoven? Maybe. The first movement of the A major sonata gets a moody, lyrical reading that goes beyond the usual Mendelssohn territory into the later parts of the 19th century. This sonata as a whole is beautifully done, with reflective mood and yet with great precision in the smaller details and especially the ornaments. In the "Hammerklavier" Chauzu comes down on the side of those who argue that Beethoven's tempo markings were the unrealistic demands of a deaf composer. This has certainly been argued before, and Chauzu's performance has a commendable variety of emotional shades, even in the giant final fugue. But there's also evidence that Beethoven intended a lot of his late music to be right at the edge of unplayability. Listeners can take their choice; there's plenty of interest in these deeply thought-out performances, with neutral studio sound that stays out of the performer's way.

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