Igor Tchetuev

Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1

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Perhaps it's a question of playing against type, but the young Ukrainian pianist Igor Tchetuev, originally from Sevastopol, completely avoids the drama other artists from Russian realms have brought to Beethoven's sonatas. Check the photos included in the fine booklet accomapanying this Russian audiophile disc (with consistently fascinating notes in English, Russian, and German): Tchetuev sits calmly at the piano, hands hanging lightly over the keys. This is not going to be everybody's idea of Beethoven, but his interpretations are intelligent and fit well with the Caro Mitis label's audiophile environment; everything on the disc is crystal clear, and Tchetuev never hits the keys with enough force to introduce any kind of distortion on the piano's end, either. It's not that his readings are completely low-key -- they're not. Instead, he tends to displace the focus away from the opening material onto contrasting elements within a movement. In the Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57, "Appassionata," for example, he lets the A flat major version of the theme suddenly arise out of the murky opening material. In this sonata and the Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a, "Farewell," he gives the music an episodic feel while keeping it firmly within Classical constraints in a nifty accomplishment. At times he seems to carry his intentional restraint a bit too far; the Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10/3, becomes a bit hard to take in Tchetuev's plinking minuet when one has the taut treatment of Andras Schiff in one's head. Yet nothing Tchetuev does is difficult to defend. Recommended, especially for those with the sound equipment to appreciate the performance's smaller details.

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