Paul Lewis

Beethoven # 1

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Beethoven # 1 Review

by James Leonard

Coached by Alfred Brendel, English pianist Paul Lewis has heretofore released two discs of Schubert's sonatas and a single disc coupling Liszt's sonata with shorter works for Harmonia Mundi. This disc of Beethoven's three Opus 31 is the start of an ambitious cycle of Beethoven's complete sonatas released to coincide with Lewis' tours of America and Europe in which he will be performing the complete sonatas. Judging from these performances, Lewis favors an intellectual approach to Beethoven. His technique is formidable, his tone is clear, his articulation is clean, his touch is strong, his foot is light, and all of it is aimed at presenting the score as transparently as possible. His performances are entirely lucid and completely thought-through with even the melodies' phrasing and inflections thoroughly considered beforehand. In intellectual terms, Lewis' performances are wholly convincing. While some listeners might prefer a more spontaneous approach to Beethoven, a more charming G major Sonata, a more tempestuous D minor Sonata, or a more humorous E flat major Sonata, those who revere the Beethoven recordings of Brendel will find much to admire here. Harmonia Mundi's is oddly distant and almost muffled.

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