Yevgeny Sudbin

Beethoven: Sonatas Op. 110 & Op. 111; Bagatelles Op. 126

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Russian-British pianist Yevgeny Sudbin has recorded Beethoven's piano concertos in the past, but this pairing of Beethoven's last two piano sonatas and his late set of bagatelles, released in 2019, was his first solo Beethoven release. It's a bold choice, for many pianists spend decades before taking on these physically and spiritually difficult works. As it happens, Sudbin offers late Beethoven interpretations that are very much in line with the rest of his playing. You won't find the mystical side of late Beethoven here to much of a degree, but the virtuoso Beethoven is certainly present, and the album makes you hope that a recording of the Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier") is on the horizon. That work, with its relentless plunge into intricate forward motion, interrupted only by the bleakest of bleak slow movements, would fit Sudbin wonderfully. In the last two sonatas, he seems to be waiting for the virtuoso passages: the first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110, lacks its usual lyricism, but the finale, perfectly defined and sweeping in its momentum, will make you forget all about that. Likewise, the big variation set in the Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111, with which Beethoven closed out his sonata output, is very strong as the theme goes through mind-bending transformations into syncopations and into the buzzing infinite. In the Bagatelles, Op. 126, Sudbin seems to try to create virtuoso music where there is none really there: his Presto fourth bagatelle is played prestissimo and misses the shocking, ragtime-like syncopations in the score. The BIS sound engineering, from a couple of different English churches, is uncharacteristically chilly, but this is a recommended release for those who enjoy the Russian school of Beethoven playing.

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